Darryl Sugar Re-enters School Board Race

Darryl Sugar in the Los Alamos Daily Post newsroom this afternoon announced he has re-entered the school board race. He is running in the Chamisa District against Stephen Boerigter. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

 

By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post

Retired medical doctor Darryl Sugar has decided to re-enter the race for Los Alamos School Board. Citing time constraints, he withdrew from the two-person race in the Chamisa District through an email he submitted Thursday to the Los Alamos Daily Post.

Sugar stopped by the newspaper office this afternoon and explained his change of mind about the race. He has issues in his background, he said, and withdrew out of concern for his family and to protect his three grandchildren.

“After discussions with my family and their encouragement, I feel re-entering the race is the right thing to do,” Sugar said. “My struggles with depression and addiction in the past give me an important perspective and experience, which I believe by serving on the school board will benefit our students, teachers and the community as a whole.”

Sugar was arrested in July in Los Alamos on an outstanding warrant. He said it stemmed from a traffic ticket he forgot to pay in Santa Fe.

In the following letter to the community, Sugar brings up other incidents in his background that he wants to explain:

Over the holidays this year, I decided to run for the school board here in Los Alamos. I am a retired medical doctor who moved here to be near my family. I was very impressed by many of the things Los Alamos schools are accomplishing, especially given the rankings of the state as a whole nationally. However, I also became aware of some issues facing the community (and my grandchildren), which I felt I could make a positive impact upon. Nationally the available data indicates a growing number of stresses or pressures that not only affects the students but also the teachers. As stresses form social platforms and other demands grow ones mental health is increasingly at risk for impairment which can interfere with performance and increase the likelihood of significant anxiety/depression or drugs/alcohol being used. Up to 50 percent of students and teachers could be affected at sometime.

I have a unique perspective being a medical doctor on this. I also have very personal experience with these problems. My wife died unexpectedly on Christmas Eve 2009 in Denver while visiting my daughter and her husband.  During this tragic time I became severely depressed and felt like my life ended. Returning home the depression worsened and I went to the office where my wife and I spent most of our time and decided to join her. I started a fire but found it was impossible to end my life.

I was charged with arson when my office manager contacted the insurance company and had me talk with them about the fire. When everything was investigated fully I was charged only with a minor misdemeanor. Because my wife was only 57, an autopsy was performed in Denver that revealed the cause of death as extensive coronary artery disease along with widespread peripheral artery disease or poor circulation.

The depression that resulted interfered with my ability to function even with daily living. However, I also saw that struggles with depression and mental illness had been with me all of my life, and I realized I needed to seek treatment for my condition, both the acute crisis and the long-term management. It took a few years to find an effective remedy through trial and error treatment with physicians.

It also took me a few years to realize that my dedication to my recovery after the loss of my wife was driven by the determination to be there for my grandchildren. It is this same determination, which has led me to seek election to the school board. I want to use both my perspective from years of practice as a medical doctor, and my own journey of struggle and success with mental illness to help make our Los Alamos schools as strong and inclusive as they can possibly be.

There is an increasing mental health problem occurring in schools across the country. Los Alamos is no different. I bring a personal view to the problem. Especially in an area where there is concern about government approval and how it might affect employment, and with a state administration seeking to make cuts to the salaries of hard working educators.

These various problems exist even if no one wishes to address them. The topic is an uncomfortable one for many people. Up to 1 out of 4 people have various degrees of stress, anxiety or depression issues to mention a few. While these occur in the adult population they also develop to the same degree in students. If not evaluated and taken care of they will not improve but only worsen and can become potentially debilitating.  Especially with the increased demands of society and the technological changes, which impact adults and children.

The environment and factors that can impact mental health are varied and need to be approached individually. Knowing how to recognize issues early becomes very important.

Drugs and alcohol are pervasive and influence directly or indirectly a large segment of the population. After surgery in 2000 I myself became addicted to opiates and was treated for this in November of 2000. Recently our schools have been urged to develop more resources for combating the impact of drugs and alcohol on our student body, and I understand firsthand the lifesaving difference access to those resources can make.

The amount of time expended on addiction is minuscule in medical school.  I found that as Physician I knew very little about this problem. Ten to 12 percent of the population genetically is predisposed to alcohol/drug addiction. Frequently people are not aware they have a problem until they are far advanced into alcoholism/addiction. 

Alcohol/drugs exist and will not go away. Ignoring a problem only gives it permission to grow and have a greater impact. Students need to be instructed honestly and with accurate information. Being genetically at risk does not mean addiction will develop. Understanding what to look for and how to deal with person before and after exposure to drugs/alcohol is vital.  Intervention at this stage can avoid long term problems, which require an open, factual and honest exchange of ideas. Looking for and teaching what to observe at an early stage allows a much easier solution than permitting it to develop to an advanced stage, which is much more difficult to treat and reverse.

I have been deeply involved with these issues. I have dealt and resolved my difficulties with addiction and depression by facing and learning about them. This has resulted in a deeper understanding and compassion for anyone with depression or addiction and the need for ongoing attention to these important problems and how to approach them. Just like with maintaining physical fitness, one has to exercise routinely to maintain health. I appreciate these topics can be uncomfortable to talk about, they are emotional issues that judgment is passed on based upon feelings and not facts. Problems or issues do not improve by ignoring them.  Investigating, learning about them and honestly discussing them offer the best chance of solving it.

As a doctor I have spent my life learning and continuing the educational process. I have many insights into the educational process. New ways or forms of learning will always develop that need to be assessed for their efficacy. And above all, the example I want to be for my grandchildren is that mistakes are not failures, that any life experience can be used to better yourself and others, and that you do not have to be ashamed of your struggles.

Darryl Sugar, MD

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