The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Opioid event both awful and important


March 6, 2019

“My sister deserves better. My family deserves better. My friends deserve better. All of us deserve better.”

— Serina Serna, who lost her sister last summer to Xanax laced with fentanyl

It’s the kind of event that’s so important in what it offers and so awful that it’s needed here.

It’s the National Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness.

Today it will take over Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center. The City of Vision joins Salt Lake City, Louisville, Kentucky, Charleston, West Virginia, and Philadelphia as host sites because of how hard their states have been hit by the opioid crisis.

New Mexico ranks 15th in the nation for opioid overdose deaths, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The summit is targeted at middle and high school students, who registered through their schools to attend. It is not open to the public.

Jennifer Weiss-Burke, whose son Cameron, 18, died of a heroin overdose in 2011, explains “it’s a national presentation specifically aimed at the age group that has been especially affected by the opioid crisis.”

Weiss-Burke founded the Serenity Mesa Youth Recovery Center after Cameron’s death.

Serina Serna says she is “in anguish as my sister’s death certificate says ‘accidental overdose.’ She did not know she was taking fentanyl. She would have never taken it knowingly. She was a teenager doing what teenagers do — experimenting — and it cost her life.”

The summit will feature such hard realities. It is sponsored by the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation and DEA 360 Strategy in conjunction with community partners Walmart and the Gavin Foundation.

If teens have any doubt the opioid crisis cuts across society, they need look no further than Jim Wahlberg — brother of movie star Mark, executive director of the foundation and a recovering addict — who will be there.

So will Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who will speak to the group, and “The Voice” winner Chevel Shepherd, who will share her talent.

Weiss-Burke is also scheduled to speak briefly, along with a youth now in recovery at Serenity Mesa.

The summit will end with family members who have lost loved ones to opioid overdose gathered on stage with photos of their lost loved ones.

The summit promises to be a powerful, terrifying, tearful morning.

It is awful that it is so needed in New Mexico.

And it is so important that those who can benefit by hearing its message do.

— Albuquerque Journal


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