Series: New Hampshire's Opioid Crisis

Department of Human Health and Services

Morning Edition is taking a look at how the opioid epidemic is affecting children - and the people and programs who support them -  in New Hampshire. It's part of NHPR's Crossroad series, examining the impacts of addiction in New Hampshire.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

On Morning Edition, NHPR is taking a look at how the opioid epidemic is taking a toll on children in New Hampshire.

One person who's charged with thinking about that every day is Moira O'Neill, the state's Child Advocate. Her office independently oversees the Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), the state's child welfare system.

Sarah Gibson / New Hampshire Public Radio

Researchers at Dartmouth have completed a months-long study of Manchester's Safe Station program.

The city’s fire department started the effort about two and a half years ago as way to open their doors to those struggling with addiction.

Since then, they’ve logged more than 4,000 intakes, according to Chief Dan Goonan.

The National Institutes of Health was interested in formally documenting how the program works, as cities across the country are looking to replicate the model, said Lisa Marsch, with Dartmouth.

Sarah Gibson / New Hampshire Public Radio

For years, New Hampshire has relied on a largely patchwork strategy to address the opioid crisis, funding grassroots efforts community by community. That means an individual’s access to services depends a lot on where he or she lives. Now, state officials want to change that. But implementing a new, statewide system is easier said than done. In some cases it will mean replacing initiatives that already exist.

AP

Plymouth State University has received a grant from the federal government to train its clinical mental health students in treating substance abuse.

The $400,000 will go towards two things: paying students a $10,000 stipend when they intern at a partner health center, and providing training and conference funding for students and faculty.

Robin Hausheer is an assistant professor at Plymouth State. She says there's a shortage of mental health care workers across the state. And those folks are key in meeting the needs of people struggling with substance abuse.

Britta Greene / New Hampshire Public Radio

Businesses that have signed on to Governor Chris Sununu's Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative will be attending regional orientations this month. 

The goal of the initiative is to get the private sector involved in addressing the opioid crisis, namely by hiring and supporting workers who are struggling with addiction.

The plan's been in the works for months, but so far details of how it'll actually work have been slim. Still, about 30 businesses have signed on, according to Jill Burke, with the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

Hope for New Hampshire – an operator of drug recovery centers that received $600,000 in last-minute state funds this spring to maintain two locations outside its base in Manchester – has now closed one of those locations, in Franklin.

Bryan Pocius / Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been running checkpoints in New Hampshire more frequently under the Trump administration, setting up on Interstate 93 near the small towns of Woodstock and Lincoln.

The stated goal of these stops is enforcing immigration law, and to that end, they have been fairly successful. Agents have arrested more than 50 people over the past two years who they determined to be in the country illegally. 

But those in support of the stops are often quick to turn attention to a topic other than immigration: drugs and the state’s opioid crisis.

 

A company whose prescription opioid marketing practices are being blamed for sparking the addiction and overdose crisis says it's helping to fund an effort to make a lower-cost overdose antidote.

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma announced Wednesday that it's making a $3.4 million grant to Harm Reduction Therapeutics, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, to help develop a low-cost naloxone nasal spray.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/accoster/2264295876/">adam coster</a> / flickr

Churches across New Hampshire will say prayers on Sunday for those who are struggling with addiction. It's one way they're observing Overdose Awareness Day later in the week.

Richard Davenport is the priest and pastor at the Trinity Episcopal Church & Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Claremont.

His congregation isn't a stranger to the opioid crisis that's hit New Hampshire hard. Some have lost loved ones, and others struggle with addiction.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

The national pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA is joining New Hampshire organizations to combat the opioid crisis. The new effort is called the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) New Hampshire.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Berlin is the latest city to join a massive lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in the opioid crisis.

Lawyers representing Berlin filed a 284-page petition in federal court on Friday accusing a group of pharmaceutical companies of stoking the opioid crisis by misleading doctors and patients about the risks of addiction posed by drugs including OxyContin.

Britta Greene / New Hampshire Public Radio

Governor Chris Sununu and state Health Commissioner Jeff Meyers on Wednesday announced a major overhaul of New Hampshire's addiction treatment infrastructure.

The state will funnel tens of millions in newly available federal funds into a coordinated system of care that tracks patients for months, if not years, through their recovery. The funds, expected to total roughly $46 million over a two-year period, were made available through the federal budget deal earlier this year.

 

New Hampshire Democrats Maggie Hassan and Annie Kuster are part of a bipartisan group sponsoring a bill that targets counterfeit pill makers.

The bill allows the U.S. attorney general to create a registry of machines that are used to manufacture pills. This would ensure that the machines are not used for illicit purposes.

Hassan said members of both parties, and President Donald Trump's own opioid commission, agree on the importance of regulating the machines.

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: July 27, 2018

Jul 26, 2018

New Hampshire House lawmakers fail to pass a challenge to the Internet sales tax, an apparent rebuke to Governor Chris Sununu and the Senate, which had unanimously approved the original bill. In a tense meeting with EPA officials, Nashua residents demand more cleanup at a toxic site tapped for redevelopment. And state officials hold a public hearing on how best to use $23 million in federal funds to fight the opioid crisis.

GUESTS:

Dean Spiliotes - Civic scholar in the School of Arts and Sciences at SNHU and author of the website NH Political Capital.

NHPR File Photo

New Hampshire has until mid-August to submit a plan for how to spend $23 million in response to the opioid epidemic.

There is so much interest that a public input session scheduled for tonight in Concord was booked to capacity before it began.

 

We gauge the reaction of New Hampshire politicians to the Trump/Putin summit in Helsinki. The U.S. attorney's office in New Hampshire focuses on sales of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, in a new drug enforcement push. And the final of three Dartmouth College psychology professors facing allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination has resigned, marking the end of the formal disciplinary proceedings at the college. 

GUESTS:

Federal prosecutors are focusing their efforts on Hillsborough County, including the cities of Manchester and Nashua, in a new crackdown on synthetic opioid dealers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the effort, called Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (SOS for short), during a stop in Concord last week.

It’s a nationwide push, targeting a single county in each of 10 districts in the U.S. -- areas that have been hardest hit by the drug crisis.

NHPR File Photo

The state health department is hosting a public meeting in Concord a week from today for input on how to allocate a big increase in federal funds toward the opioid crisis. 

The money is coming to the state as part of the most recent Congressional budget deal.

Local officials now have less than a month to decide how it will be spent.

Members of the public can submit feedback by email through July 27. 

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: July 13, 2018

Jul 13, 2018

The N.H. Supreme Court decides that the voting bill defining residency/domicile, HB1264, is constitutional. Candidates for New Hampshire's First congressional district hold their first debate, amid new allegations about State Senator Andy Sanborn. State lawmakers return to Concord to figure out how tax-free New Hampshire can fend off an internet sales tax.  And Attorney General Jeff Sessions visits N.H. to discuss the opioid crisis.

NHPR File Photo

Speaking at the U.S. District Court in Concord on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a surge in federal enforcement efforts around synthetic opioids. 

AP

The Executive Council green-lighted additional state funds for drug recovery centers Wednesday.

In February, one of the state's largest operators of such facilities, Hope for New Hampshire Recovery announced it needed to roll-back its services across the state to stabilize its balance sheet. That included closing centers in Claremont and Concord.

NHPR File Photo

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is coming to New Hampshire to speak about the opioid and fentanyl crisis.

Sessions will deliver his remarks Thursday afternoon at the federal building in Concord.

Governor Chris Sununu’s office is pushing forward with his Recovery Friendly Workforce initiative despite roadblocks in the state legislature this spring.

The goal of the initiative is to get the private sector more involved in preventing addiction and supporting workers struggling with drug and alcohol abuse.

State health officials have released two more audits of local addiction treatment providers as part of an ongoing review of all such organizations receiving state funds. 

The audits highlight concerns with the organizations’ financial and human resource operations, particularly around proper record-keeping.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

One year after New Hampshire moved to expand access to acupuncture for those struggling with addiction and mental health, the new law has yet to be rolled out.

The legislation allows licensed recovery coaches, peer counselors and health care professionals to offer a specific type of acupuncture, what’s known as acu-detox or ear acupuncture, after going through a standard training.

CREDIT SARA PLOURDE / NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu’s advisor on addiction and behavioral health, David Mara, visited with physicians and chiropractors at a Dartmouth-Hitchcock facility in Lebanon Tuesday.

They met to discuss chiropractic care as an alternative to opioids for management of back pain, a common condition.

A recent study found New Hampshire patients who were treated by chiropractors for non-cancer-related back pain were significantly less likely to fill a prescription for an opioid-based medication.

NHPR Staff

State officials have less than two months to detail their plans to spend a major increase in federal opioid dollars.

This is the money Congress made available through the budget deal in March. It's a major boost for New Hampshire -  up to nearly $23 million from just $3 million last year.

NHPR Photo

A much-awaited vote on public funds for addiction recovery efforts in Claremont and Concord was tabled at the Executive Council meeting Wednesday.

Health Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said it’s for the sake of transparency around Harbor Homes, the organization that will facilitate those funds. 

University of New Hampshire's Carsey School of Public Policy

Opioid overdose rates are rising rapidly in rural counties, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy.

Rates remain higher overall in urban areas, but have jumped more quickly outside of city centers, researchers found. They looked at two decades of death data collected by the Centers for Disease Control. 

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