With her head in her hands at the end of a makeshift conference table, a veteran social worker named Michelle looks up and sighs, “We long for the days of heroin.”

Two hours later, a lighter flickers with metronome cadence from beneath a ragged blanket a few feet from the entrance of the homeless shelter. The Director pulls back his covering without a flinch.

I wonder about my safety.

It’s fentanyl.

It’s everywhere.

A man smokes fentanyl in Española, N.M., on March 8. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

As head of Telos Consulting, I’m honored to serve this client, the city’s only homeless shelter and drug rehabilitation facility in a town infamous for poverty and generational drug addiction stemming from the days of the Chinese railroad, Española, New Mexico.

The LA Times article from March couldn’t have a more apt heading: Can this town save itself from fentanyl addiction? The race to turn around a threatened community.

Stories of overdoses. Stories of death. Looks of despair. And no big city nearby to provide funding, volunteers, or basic awareness.

I’ve worked in all the major cities: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago. None can compare to this.

How to describe the insidiousness of fentanyl? Fifty times — fifty times more powerful than heroin. Forty years ago, a gram of pure heroin cost around $2,000. Today, about $500. Fentanyl, a small fraction of that.

You never give up hope. And you always utilize proven best practices in both services and development.

Can this town save itself from fentanyl addiction?

I believe we will.