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Cadets help drug treatment program by raising awareness

New Mexico Military Institute cadets Santiago Mora, Blaine Smith, Rodolfo Spiegel and Luis Zamorano present their ideas Thursday for a brochure to increase awareness of the Angel Program, which provides non-punitive referrals to drug treatment programs. (Submitted Photo)

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A program intended to help Roswell residents receive treatment for drug addictions is getting an assist from New Mexico Military Institute cadets.

Junior college cadets enrolled in a “Principles of Marketing” course with Col. Terri Garvey, professor of business, for the fall semester have developed a marketing plan and a brochure to increase utilization of the Angel Program, a drug treatment program through Recovery Services of New Mexico.

The Angel Program was introduced here in January 2018. It is coordinated primarily by the Roswell Police Department, but also involves Recovery Services, the Roswell Fire Department and the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office.

It is designed so that people can contact first responders — or possibly others in the community in the future — with a request for help for their drug addictions, without facing detention or criminal charges. They also can receive free transportation to begin treatment at the Recovery Services location in Roswell.

Law enforcement officials have said in prior interviews that if Angel Program participants have drugs on them at the time they call, the drugs will be disposed of without any charges filed.

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But the local Angel Program has had only three people seek to use the services during the past two years and only one person accepted for treatment, confirmed Darren Webb, director of Recovery Services, which has five New Mexico clinics.

To be eligible, people must be 18 years and older, Webb said, and sometimes other health conditions can cause people not to be accepted immediately. The program is covered by private insurance, self-pay, Medicare and Medicaid, Webb said.

Cadets Santiago Mora, Rodolfo Spiegel, Luis Zamorano and Blaine Smith said during a presentation Thursday morning that they determined that creating awareness about the program among the homeless could help reach a population with need, as well as boost program utilization.

“We know that other people besides the homeless suffer from opioid addiction,” one cadet said, “but we believe that targeting the homeless population will be more beneficial for the program.”

The cadets have designed a brochure with information in English and Spanish that they will provide to Angel Program coordinators. Garvey said the cadets also intend for the information to be shared with partnering groups such as local churches, groups serving the homeless, food banks, abuse victim shelters and the New Mexico Child, Youth and Families Department.

Once people complete the program, the benefits will spread in the community, cadets said.

“This can also work as a domino chain, domino effect,” said a cadet. “When someone gets out of the addiction treatment, he is going to talk to someone else and that someone else is going to talk to someone else.”

Funds for printing the brochure are expected to be covered by the Angel Program. The cost is about 35 cents to 45 cents for color versions and 15 cents to 25 cents for black-and-white copies.

Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington said he supports the Angel Program and efforts to increase participation.

But he added that giving potential Angel Program enrollees contact information for someone other than law enforcement will be key to increasing trust about the intentions of the Angel Program.

“We may say we are trying to help, but whenever you say, ‘Go ahead and hop into the car,’ they don’t want to do that,” said Herrington.

NMMI cadets said that they have spoken to a local church and members of the Roswell Homeless Coalition about possibly serving as those alternative contacts and as distributors of the brochure.

The cadets’ goal is to have at least 10 people utilize the Angel Program within six months of the brochure distribution, which is expected to occur after the Roswell Police Department approves of the document.

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