Series: New Hampshire's Opioid Crisis

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The Department of Health and Human Services is cancelling a funding opportunity for needle exchange programs because the grants would appear to violate state law.

Needle exchanges were legalized in the state last summer, but the new statute said groups that provide clean syringes to injection drug users must be “self-funded” to operate in New Hampshire.

A new study from the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy finds that the number of children removed from parents has increased by 50 percent from 2012 to 2016.

Cases that included a substance use allegation doubled in that time period, from 30 percent to 60 percent.

Kristin Smith is the family demographer at the Carsey School. That removal from parental care can be stressful for children, and those whose parents use substances face challenges. 

NHPR File Photo

The opioid crisis has forced physicians to rethink their prescribing practices, and many are providing fewer opioid prescriptions, potentially leaving some patients without proper pain management.

Tighter regulations and insurance requirements have reduced overprescribing, but many say this makes it difficult for patients with both acute and chronic pain to find the help they need.

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A recent study found that New Hampshire reduced opioid prescriptions by 15% last year, the largest drop in the country.  How have physicians changed how they prescribe opiods in acute, and chronic care settings?

Sara Plourde

Over the past few months, more than a dozen New Hampshire towns, cities and counties have filed lawsuits against major drug makers, accusing the companies of ignoring signs that their products were fueling an epidemic of addiction.

The lawsuits represent the latest turn in a story that has hit New Hampshire harder than much of the rest of the country. Here’s an overview of where things stand, and where they may be headed.

via LinkedIn

Gov. Chris Sununu’s top drug policy advisor, Marty Boldin, resigned Wednesday following an investigation by the attorney general’s office into an unspecified personnel issue.

State officials with the attorney general’s office and the governor’s office are staying mum on most of the details around his resignation.

Britta Greene / NHPR

New Hampshire health officials decided to prioritize a specific demographic this year when allocating scarce federal funds toward the opioid epidemic: pregnant and newly post-partum women.

The choice reflects stark statistics both in New Hampshire and across the country. 

Courtesy U.S Department of Agriculture

The town of Londonderry is suing pharmaceutical makers for their alleged role in fueling the opioid crisis, joining hundreds of other municipalities across the country.

Lawyers representing Londonderry filed a 168-page petition in federal court on Monday accusing a group of pharmaceutical companies including Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, of false marketing and  pushing prescription opioids.

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New Hampshire health officials say a homeless drug user thought to be sharing needles could be behind a significant increase in the number of HIV cases in the state's most populous county.

WMUR-TV reports the Division of Public Health Services is working with the city of Manchester to determine who might have shared needles with the recently diagnosed person.

Between January 2017 and last month 46 people in the area have been diagnosed with HIV, Of those, 11 reported injecting drugs and a majority were living in Hillsborough County.

Daniela Allee / NHPR

Getting rid of old medications is one approach to fighting the opioid crisis.

Now, Walmart pharmacies across New Hampshire will offer a new way for people to dispose of unused or expired medicine.

Casey McDermott / NHPR

Police departments and educators across the state are working together to bring a new drug prevention program to schools.

The Law Enforcement Against Drugs program, or LEAD, has been growing in popularity with more than 100 instructors now in New Hampshire.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Sandwich Police Chief Doug Wyman about why he's been working with the local schools in his community to replace the well-known DARE program with LEAD. 


NHPR Staff

Frisbie Memorial Hospital is closing a recovery center in downtown Rochester.

In a statement, Chief Nursing Officer John Levitow says the decision will eliminate "redundancy of service" and allow the hospital to better target its resources. Rochester is also served by the SOS Recovery Center.

Levitow says the hospital will work to avoid any disruption in care as patients are sent elsewhere for services.

The Frisbie recovery center opened in the fall of 2016 as a partnership between Frisbie and the city to provide 24/7 substance use disorder support and treatment.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A group of recovery centers from all across New Hampshire met with top state officials on Wednesday to plead for more funding, saying the state has placed added demand on their organizations without offering any extra financial support. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Senator Maggie Hassan recently visited the U.S.-Mexico border to meet officials and law enforcement working on the front lines of the illicit drug trade.

 

During her five-day trip, Hassan met with Mexican leaders, too. One of her main focuses was fentanyl, the drug which contributed to 76 percent of overdose deaths in New Hampshire last year.

 

“The Mexican officials agree that their cartels are trafficking a great deal of fentanyl,” Hassan said.

 

Sheryl Rich-Kern / NHPR

Grandparents have always played a meaningful part in their grandchildren’s lives. But in the face of the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire, more are taking on the role of full-time caregivers.  And that means they have to prepare – emotionally and financially – to raise young kids at a time when most of their peers are slowing down.

As part of NHPR's Crossroad series, which examines the impact of substance abuse on the Granite State, NHPR Contributor Sheryl Rich-Kern visited one grand-family in Rochester.

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A top advisor to Gov. Chris Sununu has been placed on paid administrative leave and is under review by the attorney general’s office for an unspecified personnel issue.

Marty Boldin — Sununu’s Policy Advisor for Substance Misuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery — will remain on leave until the attorney general’s review is complete, the governor’s Chief of Staff Jayne Millerick said Friday afternoon.

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More than 100 collection locations across the Granite State will participate in National Prescription Drug Takeback Day on Saturday, April 28

 

Lt. Brian Kenney is with the Nashua Police Department which will set up a drive-thru drop-off at the Department of Public Works to accommodate larger volume. The Nashua P.D. also has a year-round drop box at the police station.

 

Todd Bookman/NHPR

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Concord says a massive drug sweep involving 20 different federal, state and local agencies has led to 45 indictments, and the seizure of more than 30 kilograms of fentanyl.

Officials say they tracked a Lawrence, Massachusetts-based drug ring for more than a year, allegedly overseen by two brothers, Sergio and Raulin Martinez. 

AP

New Hampshire saw a 15 percent drop in opioid prescriptions between 2016 and 2017 — the largest drop, in percentage points, of any state in the country — according to a new report from the healthcare research firm IQVIA.

NHPR

Intravenous drug users who share needles run the risk of catching deadly diseases.

Some organizations offer clean needles as well as safe ways to dispose of used ones.

Recently, Nashua's Division of Public Health and Community Services launched the Syringe Services Alliance of Nashua Area, which aims to bring this service to parts of Southern New Hampshire, and officials say it's making an impact.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

At one point last year, it looked like New Hampshire might be turning a corner in its opioid crisis.

State officials predicted overdose deaths could decline, even slightly, in 2017: In August, they forecasted there would be 466 total, down from a record 485 the year before. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire's Congressional delegation says the state isn't getting its fair share of federal funds aimed at stemming the opioid epidemic.

 

The 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law under President Obama, will bring $485 million to the national opioid fight this year. New Hampshire is getting about $3 million of that.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster said she's disappointed at the amount and that the distribution method should take into account the state's rate of overdose deaths.

 

Jessica Hunt / NHPR

Jeffrey Meyers, Commissioner of the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, says his agency is beefing up oversight of substance use disorder treatment centers that have been struggling to stay afloat or that have closed altogether after financial struggles – a situation the state can ill afford in the midst of the opioid crisis.  

Speaking on The Exchange, Meyers said the state is auditing these organizations regularly.

Robert Garrova for NHPR

The UNH School of Law held a panel Wednesday on the opioid crisis and New Hampshire's court system. Professor Lucy Hodder led the discussion, which was attended by law students, attorneys practicing in New Hampshire, law enforcement and several health care professionals.

 

"The courts, like the police, often see before anyone else the impact of addiction on families and communities because they see people at their neediest," Hodder said.

 

AP

Keene is the latest in a string of New Hampshire cities to sue pharmaceutical giants over their alleged role fueling the opioid crisis. Nashua and Manchester have filed similar lawsuits, as have hundreds of communities across the country.

Robert Garrova for NHPR

Congresswoman Annie Kuster met in Concord Monday with more than a dozen state and local leaders to discuss how to best use funding aimed at the opioid epidemic.

 

Kuster led a listening session where doctors, law enforcement and mental health experts offered expertise on how to battle addiction in the state.

 

One major theme was that, while the promise of billions of dollars in funding is welcome, New Hampshire needs to do more to make sure there's a trained workforce on the front lines.

 

via UFL.edu

New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program more than doubled in size last year, and many see it as an alternative to using opioids for pain management.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Pediatrician Julie Kim wrote an article for the Huffington Post about how she sometimes prefers to recommend medical marijuana to her patients. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with her about how medical marijuana has helped her with concerns over prescribing opioids to certain patients.

Jason Moon for NHPR

An addiction recovery center in Rochester celebrated a major expansion Thursday.

SOS Recovery started on the Seacoast just over 18 months ago in response to the worsening opioid crisis in the region. Since then, the peer recovery center says it’s had over 2,000 visits from people seeking help.

SOS Recovery Director John Burns says the demand was overwhelming their old space which was just about 500 square feet.

On Thursday, the center celebrated an expansion to 2,000 square feet, which is being offered by First Church Congregational at a steep discount.

Britta Greene / New Hampshire Public Radio

The New Hampshire House of Representatives dealt a blow Thursday to one of Governor Chris Sununu’s key priorities on the opioid front, the Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative.

The effort aims to link the private sector to the drug crisis by helping businesses better attract and retain people in recovery.

It was significant news when Hope for New Hampshire announced in February it was closing four of its five recovery centers around the state. Hope was one of the biggest operators of these facilities, which are widely recognized as a critical support for people in recovery.

Since then, after a scramble to secure more public funds and a big effort in some communities to keep services running, just one of those original four locations remains closed for good. That’s in Concord.

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