Map of the United States with Southwest written on it

ONE YEAR LATER: Vertava Health Asks “Where Are They Now?”

An Update on the Progress of the Southwest States


(August 25, 2016) – Over a year ago, Vertava Health took to the streets to bring you the most up-to-the-minute, detailed accounts of our nation’s drug epidemic state by state. We spoke with the nation’s top leaders in addiction, recovery, law enforcement and state government to keep readers informed on each state’s progress in battling an epidemic that is killing over 100 people a day in the United States. This week we checked in with four states in the Southwest region to give you a progress report on the efforts they were initiating and enforcing when we spoke to them last.



Happening Then

Vertava Health’ Dr. Jason Brooks spoke to the state’s Society of Human Resources Management Conference at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa while committed to battling addiction and spreading a message of hope for recovering addicts.


Happening Now

With opioid addiction reaching epidemic status in Arizona communities, local treatment center Valley Hope will convene community leaders and experts for a free public town hall conversation, “Breaking the Silence Through Community Unity,” tonight at 6pm at the Manor House in Safford.


Prescott is listed by recovery website TheFix as one of the top 10 destinations in the country to get sober. This has caused a boom in sober living houses – homes where six to eight people in recovery live under the supervision of a house manager, who is usually also a recovering addict. At last count, Prescott, population 40,000, had more than 150 of these sober living homes, with new ones opening up frequently.



Happening Then

New Mexico has lead the nation every year since 1997 with the highest rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths. 12,268 cases of DWI went through its courts in 2014, and more alcohol-related deaths take place there than in any other state at 51 per 100,000 people. From 2006-2010, excessive use of alcohol cut the average New Mexican’s life expectancy by 11% annually. Nationally, drinking leads to about 88,000 deaths a year and shortens the lives of those who die by about 30 years.


Happening Now

A $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help fund a Clemson professor’s research into the whether the use of nanoparticles can treat brain disorders such as addiction and depression.


In Rio Arriba County, where 1 in 5 residents lives in poverty, people overdose and die more often than almost anywhere else in the country. Over the past five years, the county’s overdose rate was three times the statewide average, and more than five times the national rate. According to a 2013 survey of 969 Española teenagers, nearly 5 percent of high school students said they had used heroin within the last month, as opposed to 2.9 percent statewide.


The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to hear a case filed by a man who claims federal agents revived his addiction to crack cocaine so he would assist in their undercover drug sting in Las Vegas, N.M., dubbed “Operation Smack City.”


Federal officials and representatives – including the head of the nation’s drug control policy office – joined local addiction recovery advocates and members of the public last week in the state to problem solve the opioid addiction “epidemic.”



Happening Then

Oklahoma ranks 10th in overdoses nationwide, and some doctors say new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control aren’t practical, and could do more harm than good.


Happening Now

More Oklahomans are abusing — and overdosing on — heroin as the state cracks down on prescription drug abuse, a result, leaders say, of a lack of long-term investment in treatment for residents who struggle with addiction.


Although Oklahoma has seen a significant decline in the number of methamphetamine labs plaguing the state, an increasing number of Oklahomans are dying from the drug.



Happening Then

We found an increasing presence and use of a more potent type of methamphetamine called P2P (phenyl-2-propanone), which is primarily manufactured in neighboring Mexico.


Happening Now

Those who are and have been addicted to substances – and those who haven’t – may have more in common than ever thought, according to a researcher at Texas A&M University who found that to some degree, everyone’s brain is “wired” to become addicted.


In hopes of curbing the growing problem of overdose deaths, Texas now allows its citizens to purchase Narcan. Narcan, or Naloxone, which stops an opioid overdose in seconds, can be purchased at CVS and Walgreens locations in Texas without a prescription.


Last week, researchers studying maternal mortality in the United States reported an ominous trend: The rate of pregnancy-related deaths in Texas seemed to have doubled since 2010, making the Lone Star State one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to have a baby.


In Austin, some people in active addiction are replacing opioids with an herbal supplement, which has the potential to save lives. But across the country, opponents of the herb are mounting a drive to get it banned.


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