Project ECHO Launches Program to Help New Mexico Children at Risk for Substance Abuse

New Mexico has one of the nation’s highest rates of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – child abuse, poverty, substance use and more.

Project ECHO at The University of New Mexico is partnering with the Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts (FORE) to help health care professionals identify and support children with adverse childhood experiences across the state.

“Since 2020, there has been a 35% increase in drug overdose deaths in New Mexico,” said Joanna Katzman, MD, director of The University of New Mexico Pain Center and director of Project ECHO’s public health programs. “That translates to almost 1,000 deaths just from opioids per year – not including deaths due to suicide.”

ACEs are often tied to the most stubborn public health issues, including drug abuse. In New Mexico, one in seven children has experienced three or more adverse childhood experiences. A crucial step in addressing this crisis is training health care providers serving children and youth, including school-based health centers, school counselors and nurses, to identify and provide interventions to prevent or treat opioid use disorder.

Leveraging Project ECHO’s revolutionary guided-practice model, Katzman and her team will build a statewide community of health care providers who will share evidence-supported approaches.

The Putting Faces to the ACES ECHO Program launches Oct. 13 and meets twice a month, with participants learning through multidisciplinary lectures and facilitated discussion of anonymized cases.

A companion webinar, All Hands on Deck, introduces the major themes for ACEs ECHO and provides critical background for the interactive ECHO sessions. All Hands on Deck launched Oct. 6 and meets monthly.

“Our aim is to help health care providers in New Mexico understand the many complex factors at the root of the opioid epidemic, and to equip them with the skills they need to make a difference,” Katzman said. “With increased knowledge and skills, they will be better equipped to identify children at risk, so they can provide immediate intervention and refer children and their families to long-term interventions.”

Joanna Katzman, MD
Our aim is to help health care providers in New Mexico understand the many complex factors at the root of the opioid epidemic, and to equip them with the skills they need to make a difference.”
Joanna Katzman, MD

“The New Mexico ACEs ECHO program addresses an urgent need in our state,” said Sanjeev Arora, MD, founder and director of Project ECHO. “These interventions will bring us one step closer to ending the opioid crisis in New Mexico.”

The New Mexico ACEs ECHO program brings together experts in psychology, pediatrics, addiction medicine and psychiatry. It is available to New Mexican health care workers of all disciplines (including school-based health center clinicians, staff and teachers), and participants will receive training, technical assistance and mentorship at no cost.

About Project ECHO

In 2023, Project ECHO is celebrating 20 years of disseminating knowledge in rural and under resourced areas. Founded and headquartered at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, N.M., Project ECHO empowers local community providers to improve the well-being of people in New Mexico and around the world.

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