Manchester Mayor Attends National Meeting On Opioid Epidemic | New Hampshire Public Radio

Manchester Mayor Attends National Meeting On Opioid Epidemic

Dec 14, 2018

Credit joycecraig.org

As New Hampshire rolls out its new statewide addiction care system, leaders in Manchester continues their effort toward combating the opioid crisis in the Southern part of the state.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig on how the Queen City is working to find new ways to address the epidemic.

Craig attended the Mayors Institute on Opioids City Team Cohort Meeting in Nashville this week, where she met with other city leaders.

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

You were in Nashville earlier this week attending a conference on how cities and states across the country are combating the opioid crisis. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about that experience.

Sure. It was a meeting this past week, as you mentioned, with teams from five other cities throughout the United States. We had applied for this opportunity. We met back in May, and then had a meeting most recently just to check in to talk about the progress that we've made [and] issues that we're encountering. It was a great opportunity to really get an understanding of what other communities are doing and to share what we're doing here in Manchester so that we can move forward with proven opportunities to best serve the people that need our help the most.

Did you come away from that having learned something that you could apply to the city of Manchester?

I absolutely did. Planning community listening sessions, so we've done those to a certain extent, but I think it's really important that we start implementing them more often. And [we're] reporting out the progress that we've made and listening to the community in terms of the needs that we have here. We definitely also can strengthen our partnership with the faith-based community. So I've met with a number of groups here in the city. And if we can motivate and mobilize those groups, we really will be able to increase access and treatment for folks.

New Hampshire has been working on this new system for opioid recovery and response. It's called Hub and Spoke. What have been some of the challenges in rolling that out in Manchester, specifically?

In Manchester we've got a great process in place already. And so the hub-and-spoke model really doesn't change very much. At this point in time it's basically funding it with federal dollars versus another source of revenue. So we're continuing what we're doing. One of the things that we talked about at this conference was really having a better working relationship and engaging more with hospitals and community health centers. Again, in Manchester we've done a great job with that, but I think there's a bigger opportunity or a better opportunity to do that going forward.

Have there been any stumbling blocks or challenges along the way in implementing this new hub-and-spoke system?

I would say no because we're just continuing what we're doing. My hope though is that we can build upon what we have. So we've got a process where we've got the access points with Safe Stations and a process where we're assessing the needs of folks and getting them into the treatment that they need. But we will be and are looking forward to increasing access to MAT, the Medically Assisted Treatment opportunities. We also need to make sure that, from a state perspective, that the access points in other locations are clearly communicated so that folks can get the treatment and services that they need in the communities that they're from because we know that that's most successful.

When we look at data that we have at Safe Stations, we know that between 50 and 60 percent of the people coming into Manchester are from other communities. So it just goes to show that there's a desperate need, a dire need for people to get services in their own communities. And my hope is that with this hub-and-spoke model, if it's communicated appropriately, those people can stay in their home communities with the supports that they have and get the services they need.

In a lot of ways New Hampshire's housing crisis kind of interacts with the opioid crisis. How's the city working to provide more housing opportunities for those who are working toward recovery?

And again that was something that came up in this meeting that I was at with the other mayors. You know, it's something that we need to work on [and] we need to work with the business community on in terms of safe sober housing. Basically, what other cities have done is we could start listing sober homes in our community with a rating system so that people who are looking for sober homes can better identify ones that have no smoking, or provide food that has been approved, and so forth and so on. Almost like a yelp sort of the system is what other communities have done that we haven't looked at yet. So that's an opportunity for us.

But is there just physically enough of that housing available? The new hub-and-spoke model doesn't really specifically address that housing problem does it?

There's supposed to be funding for it, but we haven't seen it yet.

Yeah. Is there physically enough housing out there for people who are in long term recovery?

There are housing opportunities out there, but I guess I would go back to whether they are sort of the safe sober housing opportunities that are needed. We know that there are no regulations, or limited regulations, and nothing from a statewide perspective, and our police chief and certain senators are working toward that. And so that's critical in this.