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After State Cancels Contract, Uncertain Future For Treatment Facility At Sununu Youth Center

Sarah Gibson

After at least two overdoses by teenagers in their care, the state health department canceled its contract with the organization Granite Pathways, which was running a drug treatment facility at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester.  

Many say that the facility had been struggling since it started a year ago. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with NHPR reporter Sarah Gibson, who has been talking with youth advocates, parents and officials from Granite Pathways.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

So, Sarah, let's get a little history. What is Granite Pathways and what do they do in New Hampshire?

Sure. They're a nonprofit. They've been around for about 10 years, but have grown significantly in the last few years. They're affiliated with a national organization that's based in Manhattan called Fed Cap, which mostly provides job training programs throughout the U.S. It's a huge and very old organization, with revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars. But in New Hampshire, Granite Pathways mostly focuses on drug treatment. They have various projects throughout the state. But the one we're talking about today is the inpatient drug treatment facility in a refurbished wing of the Sununu Youth Services Center.

What problems have begun to surface at the Sununu Center?

Some of the problems really surfaced more than a year ago before this opened. A lot of people since the inception of this idea in 2017 were saying, do we really need this? Is there a reason to have a 36 bed facility? Is there a need for it here in New Hampshire, given the fact that there isn't a ton of clinical evidence that that's the right way to treat young people with addiction, nor a ton of evidence that there really were that many kids who were struggling primarily with addiction. It's much more a concern among advocates that there are mental health crises that kids are facing and that they would be better served in their communities and homes.

So, there was concern that there wouldn't be enough people coming. And in fact, this 36 bed facility typically had between 6 and 10 [young people]. They never met census numbers potentially because of demand, maybe also because they were still kind of recruiting, but that included some kids who are even from out of state. So they were not at all financially sustainable, and Granite Pathways readily admits that.

And there, of course, have been some other problems, too, and we've heard in the last month about these two overdoses.

Right. So there's been concerns raised to me about staff turnover. Although, the director says that they were basically just improving their staff over the last year, and they did have plenty of people at the facility as staff last week when there were a couple of overdoses. It appears that a young man smuggled in Benzo drugs and there were at least two overdoses and hospitalizations. And so last week, the state canceled their contract with Granite Pathways to run this drug treatment facility.

Well, what does the state do now that they've canceled the contract?

Someone from the New Hampshire Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services is now managing the center. But the state is looking for another vendor, another Granite Pathways type of organization, to rent out the facility, to provide these services and meet the contractual obligations they have with the state. However, I've heard from a number of people it's going to be pretty hard to find a vendor who wants to take this huge project on.

It's really hard to provide these kinds of services. It's hard to even make ends meet financially, particularly since there just aren't a lot of kids coming. So I think there are some really big question marks about the future of this center. Although, Gov. Sununu last week did defend it. [He] said it was still a good idea and that they're, you know, looking for new people to take it over.

There will also be next week, we believe, an incident report that will be shared with the public about what precisely happened last week. There's also a review that the state is doing of its contracts with Granite Pathways to run more adult-oriented treatment programs, specifically the two [centers] in the Doorway program. These are the intake hubs for people with addiction treatment needs, both in Manchester and Nashua. So we should be seeing the review of those contracts early next year.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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