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DOH Wants To Tackle Alcohol Abuse In New Mexico

New Mexico has a very high alcohol abuse rate.
Kevin Meerschaert
New Mexico has a very high alcohol abuse rate.

As part of his proposed $393 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Acting New Mexico Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase wants to establish an Alcohol Misuse Prevention Office at the Department of Health.

New Mexico leads the nation in alcohol related deaths. Alcohol is also the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.

According to the health department, five people a day die in New Mexico due to alcohol related causes.

Scrase is asking the legislature for $5 million from the General Fund to establish an Office of Alcohol Prevention that would develop strategies that he says could prevent over 12,000 cases of alcohol dependence every year.

Numbers provided to the Legislative Finance Committee by Scrase say 275,000 New Mexicans binge drink. 73,000 of them would benefit from treatment to reduce their alcohol consumption but they are not getting it.       

Scrase told legislators it will take more than Health Department programs to battle New Mexico’s high alcohol abuse numbers.

“D.O.H. is taking on the clinical evidence based strategy. Most of the strategies to combat excess alcohol use are public policy. Issues around hours of operation, the number of sales points, and other kinds of regulatory factors,” he said. “We have highlighted the medical one of getting into physician and other provided offices to ask those questions to get people into treatment.”

Among the strategies DOH is looking into includes  increasing the percentage of New Mexicans who get a Screening and Brief Intervention for alcohol use  and also increase access to counseling and medication-assisted treatment.

       They also want to decrease alcohol consumption in counties with the highest alcohol-related mortality rates and develop and implement policies to address the problem on a county level.

     Scrase also wants to increase the number of county and tribal councils that implement evidence-based strategies to reduce problem drinking.