A state audit of one of the largest operators of drug recovery centers in New Hampshire has pointed to multiple problems with the organization's financial and operational policies, as well as failure to meet certain billing and reporting requirements.
The Executive Council is currently considering a $600,000 contract for the organization, Hope for New Hampshire Recovery. It's unclear how the financial and operational problems cited in the audit will influence those funds.
The state declined to renew a previous contract with Hope for New Hampshire Recovery last year after an NHPR report detailed allegations of fiscal mismanagement and internal tensions at the organization. An investigation by the Attorney General's office found no criminal wrongdoing.
Since then, Hope for New Hampshire has been in negotiations with the Department of Health and Human Services over the terms of the new contract. One issue of contention has been whether the organization will bill Medicaid for its services. In order to do so, Hope for New Hampshire would have to hire support counselors with certain clinical credentials. The organization continues to resist this approach, contending that it is inconsistent with its peer-to-peer strategy, according to the audit. Most other peer recovery centers in the state, however, have moved toward the Medicaid-supported model.
The audit also details HR-related concerns, including a lack of specific job descriptions, and failures to meet contract reporting requirements.
Hope for New Hampshire found itself once again in the headlines last month when it announced it was closing four of its five locations around the state -- leaving hundreds scrambling for services. The organization's leadership cited a lack of state funding for the closures.
The new proposed state contract is targeted toward Hope for New Hampshire's centers in Manchester, Franklin and Berlin. That would leave centers in Concord and Claremont slated to close, though several Upper Valley organizations are coming together in an attempt to save the Claremont facility.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock, recognizing that its patients and employees rely on Hope for New Hampshire's Claremont services, is donating $20,000 in emergency funds to keep the center open for about two months, said Greg Norman, the hospital system’s director of community health. "Sullivan County has a real scarcity of service providers serving this population,” he said.
Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont will also provide emergency funding, though the exact amount is yet to be determined. Peer recovery support is increasingly recognized as a critical aspect of long-term care for people in recovery, said Peter Wright, the hospital's president and CEO. "These services are how we're going to solve the crisis that we're in," he said. "It's not just a Claremont problem. It's a statewide problem."
It's unclear if a long-term funding solution for the center in Claremont would involve separating it from the broader Hope for New Hampshire organization.
Hope for New Hampshire is one of several major recovery support providers to recently announce significant financial challenges, or plans to scale back services in the wake of reduced public funding.
Other recovery center operators across the state are now wondering whether the $600,000 on the table for Hope for New Hampshire is a sign that state leaders may be more willing to expand funding across the board in the coming months.