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Margy Wienbar, MS, has dedicated more than 25 years to improving health and health care in New Mexico, with a particular interest in investigating the underlying causes of poor health and mitigating these causes through systematic approaches including effective data utilization, policy development and a focus on the social determinants of health. Led and collaborated on complex quality improvement projects for various parts of the health care system including health plans and the state’s Medicare quality improvement organization. Directed a six-county region from 2005-12 that encompassed more than 50 percent of the state’s population and oversaw the administration for 17 local public health offices and the related programs. Serves as the Executive Director for HealthInsight New Mexico, where she has primary responsibility for health care quality improvement projects with a primary focus on improving the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries.

One Perspective on the Opioid Crisis

Pills and Syringe

I recently came across a headline in the Health Affairs news feed: “Does Naloxone Availability Increase Opioid Abuse? The Case for Skepticism.” Naloxone is a drug that quickly reverses the effects of opioid overdose. The authors critiqued a recent article in an online journal that is not peer reviewed that put forth the case that naloxone use was actually increasing opioid use and crime.

The article in question, “The Moral Hazard of Life Saving Interventions: Naloxone Access, Opioid Abuse and Crime,” concludes that naloxone availability results in reducing fears, increasing the use of opioids, increasing the number of people using opioids, and increased crime due to people stealing to support their addictions.

I read both the article and the resulting comments with interest and, while I can see both sides of this dilemma, even the authors state that naloxone is an effective harm reduction strategy. In reviewing the articles, I was reminded of a small, red cap that I kept on my desk for over a year. I had collected the cap from a medication vial containing naloxone.

Before joining HealthInsight, I was the director of a regional public health office. One day someone came into the lobby asking for help in the parking lot. A young man was in the back of a car: his lips were blue as the result of arrested breathing due to an overdose. I watched public health staff spring into action and deliver two doses of naloxone to the young man while I assisted with rescue breathing.

I saw this person revived and able to walk to the ambulance when it arrived.

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