PECOS — Joshua Trujillo used to believe that no one escapes opioid addiction, except in a casket. He learned to accept it. He had started using heroin at 14 and couldn’t see another way out.
And then one day seven years ago, a former addict proved him wrong.
“He had been where I’d been and made it out,” Trujillo said, “and it was huge for me to see it was possible.”
Trujillo, 31, quit using drugs and overcame his addiction at 24 after meeting the man, who was serving as a drug treatment peer support worker. Trujillo went on to become a certified peer support worker and is employed at the Pecos Valley Medical Center, helping some of the 85 clients in the center’s Suboxone program. (Suboxone is the brand name for a medication used in treating those addicted to opioids.)
“Just being able to share that process is important,” Trujillo said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Suboxone program is just one way the rural medical center is striving to address specific needs of patients in the Pecos area.
New Mexico Health Department data show San Miguel County, where Pecos is located, for years had the second-highest rate in the state of emergency medical responses for overdoses and the highest rate of youth using painkillers to get high.
Chelsea Lucero, the center’s behavioral health manager, said it’s unusual for a rural clinic to offer this level of addiction treatment, and patients there don’t have to wait to get care. Elsewhere, she said, the wait time to enroll in a Suboxone program could be six weeks to six months long.
Not only are patients seen immediately at Pecos Valley Medical Center, Lucero said — they’re also welcome.
Trujillo is one of two peer support workers on the medical center’s behavioral health treatment team who aids patients on their path to sobriety.
It’s never too late to change, Trujillo said, and it’s never too early: “It doesn’t have to get worse before it gets better.”
As patients in the Suboxone program work to overcome addiction, Lucero said, the center also works with them to address other health needs, something research has shown helps keep their lives on track after treatment.
“What gives me hope,”she said, “is that when they screw up but they know our doors are always open.”