At Public Forums on New Addiction Plan, Optimism and Uncertainty

Jan 9, 2019

In a series of public forums this week and next, state and local health officials are addressing questions and uncertainty around New Hampshire’s new addiction treatment system, called The Doorway. 

As of January 1, the system’s core framework is in place. That includes nine regional offices, supported by the 24/7 statewide 2-1-1 hotline, providing evaluation and referral services for substance use disorders.

But critical to the model will be working relationships between those regional offices, often referred to as “hubs,” and the local organizations to which they will refer people for services -- including providers of in-patient and out-patient medication assisted treatment, counseling and peer recovery support.

Those relationships are still being built. Attendees at forums so far in Concord and Lebanon have raised questions about the logistics of referral services, what transportation and child care supports will be available to patients to get to appointments, and how patients will be tracked by various organizations.

“We’re up and open, so that’s a good start,” said Will Torrey, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock psychiatrist and one of the leaders of efforts to build a hub in Lebanon.

Building a comprehensive, efficient local referral system will be DHMC’s focus over the next three to six months, he said. DHMC is planning follow-up meetings with local providers in the coming weeks.

In scenes illustrative of the work-in-progress nature of the new system, Health Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers in Concord and Dartmouth-Hitchcock officials in Lebanon each separately directed audience members to a state website with contact information for the nine hubs, only to be corrected that the site hasn't been fully updated.

Many attendees also expressed concern that people struggling with substance use will fall through the cracks during weekends and overnight hours, when most of the hubs will be closed. Some questioned whether emergency rooms will remain a first stop for those in crisis.

Still, local treatment providers, town officials, employers, non-profits, and members of the general public expressed support for the new system and gratitude that officials are dedicating more resources toward addiction statewide.

Public forums will continue next week in Laconia, Dover, Manchester, Nashua and Keene.