As a state task force on heroin and opioid misuse wraps up its official work, lawmakers involved say the real work is just beginning.
About ten proposals recommended by the task force will start going through a joint public hearing process in the Legislature next week, with a goal of sending several pieces of legislation to the governor’s desk by the end of the month.
The task force reconvened Monday morning to welcome one final round of public comments before finalizing its recommendations for the legislative session.
As with previous public input sessions, the most recent meeting included testimonies from parents of people who struggled with addiction. Others asked legislators to do more to focus on helping children and teens affected by drug use, and several others asked lawmakers to more seriously consider the merits of homeopathy as a way to aid treatment for addiction.
The group previously spent several weeks at the end of 2015 gathering additional input from the public on proposed solutions to the state’s drug crisis.
In the end, the task force recommended fast-tracking about 10 proposals with the goal of sending finalized legislation to the governor’s desk by the end of January. These “expedited” proposals include plans to enact stricter penalties for fentanyl distribution and to mandate drug and alcohol education in public schools. Other proposals were approved for early consideration, and the remaining proposals will just continue through the regular legislative process.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, who chaired the task force, suggested that the members of the task force have an important role to play as the official legislative session begins.
“In terms of the 424 members of the legislature, the 26 of us and all the alternates who have done really huge amount of service also, we are the advocates,” Bradley said. “And it’s up to all of us to make sure that the process that started here is finished carefully and appropriately.”
As of mid-December, the state medical examiner's office had recorded 342 drug-related deaths in New Hampshire in 2015. Officials expect that, by the time all fatalities are counted, the total for last year will surpass 400.