New Hampshire substance abuse treatment advocates met in Concord Thursday for their annual meeting, where members highlight the successes of the past year. But this year's meeting was focused on the year ahead and how the current state budget debate might shape their future.
Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed the Republican-backed state budget plan last month, leaving many state programs unsure of what funding they will be getting for the next two years. That uncertainty is especially acute given New Hampshire's troubling rates of opiate abuse.
In the substance abuse treatment community, this uncertainty has kept many centers from moving forward with plans for expanded services. For Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center, a substance abuse treatment program in Gilford and Plymouth, the budget stalemate has prevented them from planning to double their client base from 60 to 120 people.
Both Hassan and GOP leaders included significantly higher funding for substance abuse treatment in their respective budget plans. But the two sides differed on other issues, leading to Hassan's veto.
“Everything has kind of stopped. Every board of directors, every program has to start looking at: Can we afford to make those investments, can we afford to continue programs that we started if we don’t know if they will be funded in the next biennium?” Abikoff said.
But Abikoff said the even larger issue is that it's now uncertain whether the state will continue its expanded Medicaid program. She said substance abuse programs stand to miss out on additional federal and state dollars if expansion expires.
At The Serenity Place, a recovery center in Manchester, CEO Sharon Drake said he's delayed a planned 28-day treatment program. “Nobody is going to expand what they are currently doing without additional dollars, whether that is with Medicaid expansion and or an increase in our state contracts,” Drake said.
Lawmakers say they don’t expect a new two-year state budget to be finalized until the fall.