After the show’s chaos, the community raises questions about alcohol abuse and mental health

GALLUP, New Mexico – A day after police said a man drove an SUV in Gallup’s motorcade, injuring 15 people, many in the city and in indigenous communities across New Mexico say alcohol abuse remains a major problem.

Regional and state leaders gathered at Gallup Friday morning and joined Zoom. They questioned the previous shocking night, and had a conversation about the issues facing society.

Here are some of their comments.

Gallup Mayor Louie Bonaghidi: “It was very painful last night.”

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Navajo Nation President Jonathan Neese: “This is a difficult time for all of us.”

Presentation Coordinator Melissa Sanchez: “I’m still shivering.”

Navajo Nation Assembly delegate Edmund Yeese: Personally, I blame alcohol for this. We also need representation from the Alcohol Enforcement Act here because we lost that in Gallup and in the county.”

Governor Michelle Logan Grisham (D) New Mexico: “We need to do more to prevent any poisoning in any context where people are in high-risk behaviours, including drunk driving, and that should improve a lot immediately.”

Navajo Nation Delegate Amber Crotty: “Our coordinated effort to begin addressing these systemic mental health and behavioral issues in our communities that stem from trauma.”

In all the discussions, there were not many specific proposals.

In hundreds of social media comments on the video, people in the community have asked what leaders can do about problems related to alcoholism, drinking, driving, and mental health.

Here are a few of them:

“We need to address alcohol and its effects on his religion.”

‘We need a huge amount of resources dedicated to treating alcohol’

“Behavioral health and additional resources are definitely required…”

Many have stated that trauma is the reason why so many people abuse alcohol.

Some said fewer locations should have liquor licenses. Others said sellers need to stop selling to people who are already drunk.

Many said law enforcement needs more resources in the area, and beyond that, calls for tougher and stronger DWI laws continue.

Defenders of discreet leadership are once again joining those calls.

The local chapter on Mothers Against Drunk Driving said New Mexico’s laws have some teeth, especially compared to some other areas of the country, but they want to push for more changes.

This includes making sure that cases aren’t dismissed, that prosecutors have the tools they need, and that some penalties are tougher — including when someone has previous convictions or when people don’t follow probation terms.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Lindsey Valdez, regional executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “We want to make sure that existing laws in place in the DWI are adhered to in criminal proceedings and always try to increase what those penalties are – all for the sake of deterrence in the future.”

Valdez said much of this change is intended to deter people from driving while they are disabled.