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State Reconsiders Strategy for Youth Addiction Treatment Center

Sarah Gibson for NHPR


A group of providers and staff with the Department of Health and Human Services are re-examining the state’s model for how to treat young people with substance use disorders and mental health challenges, following the closure last month of the state’s sole addiction treatment center for youth. 

That facility, run by the organization Granite Pathways in a rented wing of the Sununu Youth Services Center, provided in-patient treatment to people ages 12-18 with substance use disorder. The state cancelled its contract with Granite Pathways after a series of non-fatal overdoses at the end of 2019raised concerns about oversight and quality of care there.

Gov. Chris Sununu’s Adolescent Addiction Treatment Working Group, which began meeting this week, is tasked with identifying the needs for residential mental health and addiction treatment in the state, and developing standards and scope of work for a new vendor to take over the facility by the summer.

"We could use the same contract or we could just make it better," Governor Sununu told NHPR. "There are definately some holes there and some gaps...[The working group] are folks within that community that can better define what we should be doing given our population and the issues that we have at hand today."

The state plans to solicit input this month from providers and families before seeking applications this spring.

“We want to take the opportunity to engage with a larger group of stakeholders and experts to really look at what the youth really need at this point,” said Christine Tappan, Associate Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Some advocates have raised concerns about the scope and vision of the facility since its inception in 2018, when Sununu and other lawmakers supported it as a way to help young people in the midst of the state’s opioid and addiction crisis. 

Granite Pathways was one of only two vendors that applied to operate the facility, and it never had enough residents to become financially sustainable. With the exception of some funds from the federal state opioid response grant, it did not receive direct financial support from the state.

Tappan said the state is examining concerns about the facility’s financial sustainability, and that the new vendor will be required to provide accredited, intensive mental and behavioral health treatment as well as substance use disorder treatment.

“Kids don’t just come to us with a substance use issue; they are far more complex and complicated than that, and we need programming that can address all that,” she said.

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