SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The powerful Legislative Finance Committee is recommending New Mexico lawmakers focus more on preventing alcohol-related deaths. In a recent report, the committee says the state is currently “investing relatively little effort” in early prevention.

The Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) keeps track of spending and government programs across the state. Now, their report shows New Mexico saw a recent uptick in alcohol-related deaths.

From 2019 to 2021, the alcohol-related death rate in the state increased by 31%, the LFC says. More than 2,000 New Mexicans died of alcohol-related deaths in 2021.

While preliminary data shows the death rate may be decreasing a bit, the LFC still recommends New Mexico boost prevention efforts. The state has put about $800 million towards the Medicaid behavioral health program, which the LFC says is the main substance use treatment program in the state. But overall, “efforts to expand treatment have not kept pace with the increasing magnitude of substance use needs,” the LFC report says.

While drugs like fentanyl are a big concern in New Mexico, alcohol remains an ongoing issue. The state’s alcohol-related death rate has essentially doubled since the early 2000s, data from the LFC report shows. The LFC says the state could address that with things like school and home-based intervention or family therapies.

The LFC also notes that accessing alcohol may now be easier than a few decades ago. “Over the last few decades, New Mexico’s alcohol excise taxes and other policies related to alcohol access have weakened,” they say in their report.