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State Cancels Contract With Treatment Provider After Teen Overdoses

Sarah Gibson for NHPR


New Hampshire is terminating its contract with the state's sole addiction treatment facility for youth and temporarily suspending all admissions after teenagers staying there overdosed and were rushed to the hospital earlier this week.

On Wednesday, DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers told reporters that swift action was neccessary against Granite Pathways, the organization running the center.

 “It is clear that Granite Pathways is unable to operate this program successfully without potentially compromising the safety of our kids who are in treatment there and we needed to take these immediate steps,” he said.

Granite Pathways won a contract to rent and operate the center a year ago, after the state spent over a million dollars converting a wing of New Hampshire's only youth detention center in Manchester for drug treatment. It pays the state approximately $31,000 a month for use of the space.

Granite Pathways, which is run by the FedCap organization in New York City, also contracts with the state to run centers in Nashua and Manchester for the state's new “Doorway” addiction treatment system for adults. The state will review these contracts over the next thirty days.

“There has been a breach of trust with this organization, and steps must be taken swiftly,” Governor Sununu said.

Annette Escalante, Director of the New Hampshire Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, will oversee the operations of the center as the state looks for another organization to take it over.

In its initial call in 2018 for vendors to operate the treatment facility, DHHS only received two applications. Some say the center has struggled since it opened, often operating at less than half capacity for residents, and seeing high staff turnover. 

One parent at the Wednesday press conference told state officials that the center was not equipped to support teenagers with severe mental health issues, which often fuel substance use disorder.

She told NHPR her daughter was one of the three teenagers who, in July, left the treatment center and were allegedly sexually assaulted by two residents of Manchester. The teenagers ended up in the hospital; the two men are now facing felony charges.

Patricia Reed, the state director of Granite Pathways, issued a written statement that the organization agreed with the contract termination and that “an outside review of our processes is helpful.” However, she said that staff followed appropriate protocol with the most recent overdoses this week.

“The risk is high, and our staff know it,” she wrote. “That is the nature of the work.  As a review takes place, we believe it is important to recognize that Granite Pathways is not a locked facility, nor does it utilize invasive search procedures.  As such, we understand that youth may, from time to time, try to smuggle substances into the facility. We do our very best to ensure that this does not happen, while simultaneously being prepared if it does.”

Commissioner Meyers says a full review of the overdose incidents is in process, and will be made public next week.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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