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As Drug Treatment Center Closes in Claremont, Question Remains: What’s Next?

Britta Greene
New Hampshire Public Radio
Hope for New Hampshire Recovery's Center in Claremont is one of four slated to close within the next couple of weeks. The center has about 200 active members for whom it provides peer support services, according to Manager Wayne Miller.

Craig Perry stopped by the Claremont office of Hope for New Hampshire Recovery on Thursday afternoon. He struggled with addiction for a good chunk of his 20s, but now, at 30 years old, he’s been clean for about a year and a half.

His drug problems started when he took his first job after college, he said. He’d get high on lunch breaks.  “I didn’t know it’d affect me like that,” he said. “More and more, and then I had to go to heavier stuff.”

He’s been coming to the center here for about five months. He has a close relationship with its manager, who's been a bedrock counselor in his recovery.

Hope for New Hampshire is one of the state’s largest providers of drug recovery centers, but this week the organization announced it was significantly scaling back its services, moving forward with plans to close four of its five locations. That will leave just one open, in Manchester.

Perry was upset to hear this news when he stopped in Thursday. “This town is already going through a dark time with all the drugs in it,” he said. “We need a place like this.”

Wayne Miller, the manager in Claremont, said he got word of the closures Monday night, just hours before Hope for New Hampshire issued a public announcement.  The days since then have been a scramble. He’s tried to contact his 200 or so active members, people in recovery relying on various programs the organization provides, but he said it’s been difficult to reach everyone.

“It’s been extremely overwhelming to have to deliver that news,” he said. “It’s just really hard to try to explain that I don’t necessarily know where else to send them.”

There’s other recovery programs in the area, including suboxone clinics and 12-step programs, he said, but no peer-to-peer centers like this one.

What's also been difficult for Miller, as he tries to communicate with members and wind down operations, is a sense of confusion over whether there's actually a funding solution on the horizon. 

In its statement announcing the closures Tuesday, Hope for New Hampshire blamed its financial struggles in part on a lapse in state funds that began in July, following allegations of financial and operation mismanagement. 

But since then, responding to questions about the organization's future, Governor Chris Sununu and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers have said the state is working toward a new contract with Hope for New Hampshire that would conceivably resume the flow of public funds. It remains unclear, however, what the terms of that contract would be, and whether it would result in the reversal of the decision to close the Claremont center, or three others in Concord, Franklin and Berlin.

For Meyers, the back-and-forth playing out in the news has been frustrating and disorienting. “It seems like we’re all on the same page of recognizing that the opioid addiction issue is significant,” he said. “So, for there to be any lapse in financial support for any of these services ... it’s infuriating.”

He’s meeting with Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett and representatives with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Valley Regional Hospital, he said, early next week to see what options are on the table. 

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