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Opioid addiction effects on the Borderland

Good Morning El Paso Opioid addiction prevention in the Borderland

EL PASO, Texas - As the opioid epidemic skyrockets across the nation, there are prevention efforts happening at the state and local level.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that from 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses, 91 Americans die every year from an opioid overdose.

In May, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission awarded Texas $27.4 million in federal funds to combat opioid use.

The commission said that of the more than 33,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States in 2015, 1,186 were in Texas.

The Prevention Resource Center at Aliviane reported 54 opioid-related deaths in El Paso last year, with the number expected to double this year.

"It's an issue that sometimes I think has a stigma attached to it and not enough people reach out to get treatment," said Susie Villalobos, the center's regional evaluator.

Villalobos believes education is key to spreading awareness about the dangers of opioid addiction.

"We want to focus on the parents to lock up their meds to put them in a place where they're not accessible to teens or young kids," Villalobos said.

Many times, children become the unintended victims when they have parents who are addicts.

While the cases of opioid overdoses are on the rise in El Paso, Villalobos said it's difficult to track just how many children are impacted mentally and physically, there is no current mechanism to track that information.

"After a parent is identified (as an addict) and having an issue, the El Paso Police department and CPS also have a partnership where they'll take care of the child," Villalobos said. There are also programs that will help the parents and the children at the same time so they're not separated.

Villalobos know all too well the impact of opioid addiction on childred, she adopted a son whose parents were addicts.

"My son was lucky that I was there to get him out of a spot...and there's many more children that are being affected."

University Medical Center is also doing its part to prevent anymore deaths.

The hospital will soon introduce educational programs for its physicians and staff.

"We're starting to see numbers that mirror what is happening at the national level. We're seeing more and more cases coming in attributed to overdose and people using and abusing opioid medications," said Xochiquetzalli Gamboa, manager of Trauma Grants at UMC.

UMC will provide more traning to its staff to better monitor dangerous trends that can lead to addiction like prescription abuse.

The Federal Drug Adminstration said opioid overdoses are the number one cause of death for people under the age of 50.

With UMC being the only level-one trauma center in the area, it wants to help prevent deaths and promote education to keep everyone safe. UMC officials said it is the only hospital that has the program in El Paso.

"We're very proud to be able to provide this education," Gamboa said.

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