Manchester Demands State Step Up Efforts To Combat Opioid Addiction

Sep 1, 2019

Mayor Joyce Craig, Manchester Health Department Director Anna Thomas, Police Chief Carlo Capano and Fire Chief Dan Goonan spoke at the Manchester's Central Fire Station.
Credit Sara Ernst / NHPR

  Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig is demanding the state open more treatment and support options across New Hampshire for those suffering from opioid addiction and other substance abuse disorders.

Craig and other Manchester officials said Friday they’re overwhelmed by the high numbers of people coming to their city from other communities to find help. They also expressed frustration with the governor's office.

Craig emphasized that The Doorway NH, the state’s program to combat opioid addiction, is failing its main goal: to provide 24/7 access to treatment options within an hour drive of a patient's home.

Her solutions focused mainly on ways to provide resources to program participants in their own communities. 

“I’m asking for the state to consider replicating the Safe Station model through the state at two to three locations, to set up treatment options, emergency beds and shelters throughout the state and adjust the funding formula,” said Craig. 

Dan Goonan, the Chief of the Manchester Fire Department, a key partner in the city's Safe Station program, said he's fed up with what he sees as a lack of cooperation from the state.

“We’ve reached out to the state, I don’t get calls back,” said Goonan. “We try to tell the state what’s going on. I am so done with politics. This isn’t a competition. Give us some help here.”

This press conference comes after a meeting Thursday between Mayor Craig and state Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers, in which Governor Sununu also attended. 

After the meeting, Sununu published a press release, in which the Governor took credit for establishing a partnership with the city. 

“Upon learning from Mayor Craig that the City of Manchester does not currently have an opioid response plan, Governor Chris Sununu recommended forming a new coordinating team composed of state and city officials to ensure cooperation between the City of Manchester and the State of New Hampshire on a variety of issues.”

Mayor Craig said this characterization of the City of Manchester is untrue. 

“Manchester does have a number of opioid response plans,” said Craig. “[It] is actually a requirement [to submit that plan to the state], so I’m surprised the Governor would say we didn’t have a plan.”

After the press conference, HHS Commissioner Meyers published a statement saying he looked forward to working cooperatively to tackle the crisis. However, he did not address Manchester officials’ frustrations over poor communication. 

 

“The Governor and I had a constructive and positive meeting with the team in Manchester yesterday, and we look forward to implementing this newly established city-state coordinating team," Meyers said. "Tackling the opioid crisis requires cooperation between the City and the State, and we welcome Manchester City officials to join us in getting this done."