Hope for New Hampshire – an operator of drug recovery centers that received $600,000 in last-minute state funds this spring to maintain two locations outside its base in Manchester – has now closed one of those locations, in Franklin.
At the time the state contract was issued, the organization was in the process of scaling back its operations, citing financial insecurity. At its peak, it had been operating five recovery centers across New Hampshire, in Manchester, Franklin, Berlin, Claremont and Concord. With the additional money, it said it could maintain operations at three locations. Now, only those in Manchester and Berlin remain open.
State health officials have said they’re committed to supporting accessible peer recovery services, like those offered by Hope for New Hampshire, in communities statewide. The services are considered critical in the broader fight against the opioid crisis. They'll also be a key component of the state's proposed hub and spoke model to address addiction, outlined by Governor Chris Sununu last month.
But maintaining a strong network of providers has proven a challenge. This year, in an effort to ensure the quality and sustainability of these organizations, the Department of Health and Human Services has been auditing their books. Offiicials have been finding concerns across the board.
At Hope for New Hampshire, auditors pointed to multiple problems with the organization’s financial and operational policies, as well as failures to meet certain billing and reporting requirements.
Health Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers has said many of the challenges are symptomatic of these organizations having to scale up quickly to address the crisis.
But the closure of Hope for New Hampshire’s Franklin location had less to do with the organization’s finances, and more to do with a lack of demand for its services, said Interim Executive Director Keith Howard.
He described the volume of people using the center as a “teeny, tiny number.”
Unlike other Hope for New Hampshire centers located far from other comparable providers, the Franklin center was less than 4 miles from the Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center, which offers many of the same services.
That organization’s executive director, Michelle Lennon, said she was surprised to hear this spring that Hope for New Hampshire was receiving additional state funds to run its center so nearby. She wrote a letter to members of the Executive Council detailing the services her center offered, and asking why Hope was getting “special treatment.”
But, she said, she was told the councilors didn't get a chance to review her message before the vote.
"When they don't have all the facts and they're doing these quick votes, I think it can be a little wasteful," she said.
Lennon met with Howard, with Hope for New Hampshire, this week to ensure those seeking services through the Hope center could be referred to her organization.
Meanwhile, DHHS will adjust its contract with Hope for New Hampshire to reflect the Franklin center's closure, said Jake Leon, a spokesperson for the department.