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Home » Uncategorized » New prevention specialist joins Luna County efforts

New prevention specialist joins Luna County efforts

John Costilla-Gonzalez

Wednesday, September 12, 2018; Deming, NM: The Southwest Center for Health Innovation (CHI) welcomed aboard Deming resident John Costilla-Gonzalez as a prevention program specialist in Luna County. Costilla-Gonzalez will support community efforts to address youth alcohol and prescription drug abuse, funded by the New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention.

Raised in Carlsbad, Costilla-Gonzalez has resided in Deming for over a decade. He has great confidence in the community. “In Luna County everyone helps each other, and everyone tries to do their best to make it a better place,” said Costilla-Gonzalez.

A graduate of Western New Mexico University, Costilla-Gonzalez has worked for 13 years with New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Families as an investigator and saw first-hand the impact of alcohol and substance abuse on Luna County and its youth.

Later, as a surveillance officer for the Juvenile Probation and Parole Division, he saw youth and their experiences with substance abuse. “You see kids that on probation for only first-time substance use; they were caught with a pipe or drinking at the park. Or you have youth who are so far the other way, with serious long-term drug use issues,” he said.

“I see the importance of prevention. The best way to help youth is to keep them from alcohol and drugs altogether. Once they have been immersed in alcohol and prescription drug abuse, you are working against the clock to reform their thinking and their reality,” said Costilla-Gonzalez.

Costilla-Gonzalez hopes to support and build upon the successful efforts of the Youth Prevention and Advocacy Coalition (YPAC). “The new social host ordinance was a wonderful addition to the laws in our community to better protect youth, but we also need to change our culture around alcohol. Education is the key, early alcohol initiation by youth puts them at-risk for life-long alcohol addiction.”

A study published in the Journal of Psychiatry, “Age at First Alcohol Use: A Risk Factor for the Development of Alcohol Disorders”, found that youth who were initiated into alcohol use between the ages of 11 to 14 years old were at greater risk of developing alcohol disorders as adults.

About 29 percent of Luna County High School students reported they first drank alcohol before age 13 on the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, compared with the New Mexico average of 20 percent in 2015. The survey gauges the healthy, and not-so-healthy, behaviors of Middle and High School students across the nation, and the 2017 survey results for the region will be released in December.

“It’s especially important for youth hear from their families about the dangers of alcohol, especially that drinking doesn’t have to be part of every social event,” added Costilla-Gonzalez.

Susan Wilger, CHI Associate Director, said, “John brings a wealth of experience and passion for prevention to this position. We are excited to have someone with deep commitment to his community join the substance use prevention efforts in Luna County.”

To learn more contact Costilla-Gonzalez at (575) 597-0038 or email: