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Albuquerque police to hold town hall as fentanyl abuse rises among teens and young adults

<i>KOAT</i><br/>On Wednesday
KOAT
KOAT
On Wednesday

By Kalyn Norwood

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    ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (KOAT) — Just over a week ago, the state announced the number of fentanyl-related deaths had doubled in New Mexico, and now Albuquerque police say the greatest concern is among teens and young adults.

On Wednesday, APD will hold a town hall to address fentanyl abuse. The executive director of Serenity Mesa, a youth treatment center, said they will be a part of it.

Serenity Mesa is a home away from home for teens and young adults struggling with addiction, specifically opioid addiction.

“This is my son Cameron,” said Jennifer Weiss-Burke, executive director of Serenity Mesa.

It’s an issue Weiss-Burke knows all too well. There’s a mural on the side of a building there in memory of her son Cameron, who passed away at 18 because of it.

“Every kid that comes through here I see his face,” said Weiss-Burke. “If he would have had this place to go to for treatment, I feel that sometimes the end result would have been different.”

His overdose is the reason she and her husband opened up the doors of the facility and lately, she’s seen an alarming trend.

“Just in the last 6 months, I would have said 80 percent of the clients we have seen were using fentanyl,” said Weiss-Burke.

She said a year ago that number was zero and the growth is scary to watch.

“Every time you take it you’re playing Russian roulette with your life,” said Weiss-Burke.

“The most common age of offenders at 29% of all the age groups was between the ages of 18 to 25,” said Rebecca Atkins, a spokesperson for the Albuquerque Police Department.

APD is holding a town hall Wednesday because they’re seeing a large increase in that age group using and selling the drug.

“Compared to 2020, we only had 10 offenses that involve fentanyl whereas as in 2021 just through July 18 we’ve had over 50 offenses involving fentanyl,” said Atkins.

Now, Weiss-Burke and others at the center are hoping to help young people before it’s too late.

We’re all fighting for other people’s kids now because we don’t want the same thing to happen to them that happened to us,” said Weiss-Burke.

They’ve helped over 200 teens and young adults since they started, free of charge. With the town hall, both groups hope it will raise awareness on the issue and work towards finding a solution.

The town hall takes place at 5 p.m. on July 28. You can watch it online on APD’s Facebook page, or the city’s YouTube channel. You can also submit questions to apdquestions@cabq.gov. Members of APD, the Violence Intervention Program, 2nd Judicial District Court and Serenity Mesa will discuss the issue.

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