N.H. Plots New Approach to Addiction, Relying on Millions More in Federal Funds

Aug 15, 2018

Governor Chris Sununu and state Health Commissioner Jeff Meyers on Wednesday announced a major overhaul of New Hampshire's addiction treatment infrastructure.

The state will funnel tens of millions in newly available federal funds into a coordinated system of care that tracks patients for months, if not years, through their recovery. The funds, expected to total roughly $46 million over a two-year period, were made available through the federal budget deal earlier this year.

As it stands, there are significant disparities across the state in access to addiction support. A patchwork system of hotlines, online resources, social services agencies, and recovery and treatment centers can make it difficult for individuals to know where to turn.

The plan announced Wednesday aims to change that. “This is the biggest step this state has ever taken in addiction,” Sununu said. “And we know we've been a state of addiction for a long, long time."

Officials will establish nine regional “hubs,” likely healthcare institutions, that will act as one-stop shops for those seeking help. Individuals entering the system through those hubs will be evaluated for their medical and social service needs, and then connected to relevant resources. That may include not just coordinated addiction treatment or counseling, but also broader social supports like job training and housing assistance that can help maintain a stable recovery.

“We’re trying to get people well,” Sununu said. “We’re trying to get them to a point of self-sufficiency. … And to get there, it’s really about providing fully encompassing services.”

The hubs will track individuals’ progress, building a detailed data set that officials can draw from to improve the system over time.

The state is also planning to expand funding for transitional living, an area of high demand, and increase the number of healthcare professionals authorized to treat opioid users with medication for their addiction. In addition, funds will be allocated to expand treatment and services for pregnant women and individuals leaving the correctional system.

The Department of Health and Human Services expects to receive the federal funds in September, and begin rolling out aspects of the plan in the fall. Officials will promote a single hotline, 2-1-1, and a single website where residents can access comprehensive resources and be directed to local providers.

Funding for these programs over the long-term, though, remains unclear. Questioned about the plan’s sustainability Wednesday, Commission Meyers asked for patience.

“We are going to look at a variety of funding sources in the future,” he said. “And quite frankly, if this works, then the federal government and private markets will want to invest in it.”