Advocates, first responders, and local and federal lawmakers say the state has made great strides in combating an opioid crisis, but much more still needs to be done. At two press conferences in Concord Tuesday, the focus was on efforts at the state and federal levels both past and future.
The message the substance abuse community wants New Hampshire lawmakers to hear is this:
“It took years of policy and neglect to get us into this situation and it is going to take us years of policy and support to get us out of this," said Executive Director Linda Paquette of New Futures, a nonpartisan advocacy group for substance abuse policy in the state.
Paquette and other advocates gathered at the State House Tuesday to applaud the legislature for its work last session, but to also stress that much more work needs to be done when lawmakers return to Concord this January.
They say that work includes restoring the state’s alcohol fund, removing barriers to insurance and making Medicaid Expansion permanent.
And at the federal level Congresswoman Annie Kuster hosted a roundtable discussion to outline the work Congress has been doing in D.C., including securing an additional $5 million for prevention and recovery as well as increasing the number of medically assisted patients physicians can treat.
And looking ahead Kuster said working on policies to stop the influx of drugs into the Granite State as well as over-prescribing will be a top priority.
“And this is a terrible statement having lived here my entire life but my two sons 28 and 25 are living in Brooklyn, New York and they feel safer to me than if they were here in New Hampshire and there is something wrong with that picture," Kuster told the Concord crowd Tuesday.
According to the CDC , New Hampshire has jumped from having the 24th highest number of drug deaths per 1000 people in the country to being third. Last year nearly 440 people died from a drug overdose and officials say this year’s numbers are likely to exceed 500.