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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Young Women United: Urge Gov. Martinez to Change the Landscape with Treatment Not Incarceration

Women in recovery share their stories with each other
and community members

This is a guest blog by Adriann Barboa and Micaela Cadena of Young Women United.

As people who work with young women in Albuquerque every day, we are intimately familiar with the landscape of addiction -- its twisting curves, jagged peaks, and endless valleys. In many ways, addiction is the white noise we hear at night, and the background music playing in our earphones by day. It is everywhere.

What does it mean to live in a state where you are more likely to be impacted by addiction than you are to earn a living wage or to graduate from college? It means that virtually every person we know who was born and raised here has a story to tell, about how substance use impacted their lives: their own struggles with drugs, or the struggles of their parents, siblings, partners and friends. Weekly, we hear stories of custody struggles, sexual violence, poverty, and death.  But we also hear stories of hope, healing, unity and recovery.

As the economic crisis digs in, day-to-day struggles are getting worse. Often exacerbated by other stresses, we know substance abuse is generational, contagious, and tenacious. Once it has taken root in a family, neighborhood or town it is hard to remove. But we also know that with quality treatment, it is possible to break free. 

Last week, the New Mexico legislature passed four bills that could expand access to substance use treatment. Taken together, Senate Bill 232, Senate Bill 321, Senate Bill 354, and Senate Bill 451 will dramatically improve the chances that a person struggling with addiction will be able to access treatment.


Right now, in New Mexico, if you are a substance user and come into contact with the legal system, the only bed you are likely to get is in a jail cell. There is a lack of space in treatment centers, and no incentive, structure or support for judges to get you there. If you are pregnant or a mother, your chances of accessing quality treatment are even worse. Women who are pregnant and seeking help fear prosecution and often don’t reach out. Mothers know they run the risk of losing their children, and often try to get clean on their own, rarely succeeding. 

One woman who has thrived in recovery recently told us, “I was in and out of jail for years. I went into jail broken and lost, and came out of jail broken and lost. Finally, I went into treatment and now I feel whole. I can do better for myself, and I want better for myself.”


Now is our chance. If Governor Susana Martinez signs these bills, she can save lives. By making quality treatment accessible, Governor Martinez can unclog the courts and make our communities more vibrant and beautiful. She can make real her promise of “bringing bold change and a brighter future to New Mexico families.”

Right now, sitting on Governor Martinez’s desk are four bills that would do that. Join us in urging her to sign, and help change our landscape.  

Adriann Barboa and Micaela Cadena lead Young Women United in Albuquerque, where they each live with their children. Both were born and raised in New Mexico.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Photo credit: Young Women United.

March 30, 2011 at 12:10 AM in Crime, Drugs, Alcohol, Guest Blogger, Justice, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez, Women's Issues | Permalink


Treatment is only going to work if the person wants to quit using. It probably takes several attempts to successfully quit using so it is silly to throw people into jail for failing to be 100% compliant. Addition is a medical problem, not a judicial problem. Marijuana is a good medicinal to help keep addicts and alcoholics relatively sober. It is the alcohol that often lowers inhibitions to using drugs. Legalize and offer treatment for when people are ready.

Posted by: qofdisks | Mar 30, 2011 8:36:35 AM

I strongly support these bills. If no good treatment options are available it makes it much harder for people suffering from substance abuse to turn their lives around. Present laws treat people suffering from an illness as if they are criminals. This helps neither society nor the people. We are in the 21st century and our laws should reflect the knowledge we have gained about addiction.

Posted by: M. Archuleta | Mar 30, 2011 11:26:45 AM

There is only one good but important outcome that I can see. It will be cheaper than incarceration.
The details on the bills were not made clear but am I to understand that treatment programs are funded and prepared to take all voluntary submissions sans court order? I tell you, a court can not just make somebody kick an addiction. Forcing people to quit taking drugs especially coupled with intolerance for slips and marijuana will not lead to long term success.
But, if it is cheaper and make everybody feel better, well, have at it but stop drinking the Drug War kool-aide.

Posted by: qofdisks | Mar 30, 2011 12:21:08 PM

"Jorge Castañeda, who served as foreign minister under Calderon's predecessor and now teaches at New York University, thinks the answer is to legalize drugs in Mexico and the United States -- starting with marijuana."
(I know, you don't like HuffPo. Hey, aint nobody gettin' paid these days. I'm not.)

Posted by: qofdisks | Mar 30, 2011 9:19:04 PM