As N.H. Businesses Feel Effect Of Drug Epidemic, Some Leaders Taking Action

Nov 13, 2015

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By all accounts, New Hampshire in the throes of a drug addiction crisis; more than 300 people died from drug overdoses last year, the most in state history.

But while there’s the human toll, there’s also an impact on businesses and the state’s overall economy.

To talk more about that, Jeff Feingold, editor of the New Hampshire Business Review, joined NHPR's Morning Edition to talk about NHBR's reporting on the issue.

Many of those who fall victim to drug addiction are people in the working and middle class. In fact, of the nearly 100,000 people who are addicted in the state, three quarters of them are employed.

That’s a really interesting statistic that I think a lot of people in the business community have found very disturbing, either from their own personal experiences with employees who’ve had addiction problems, but also just knowing the reality of what’s going on with the workforce.

Are there are certain industries that see a higher rate of employees who end up abusing drugs?

Historically, the hospitality industry and specifically the restaurant industry has seen a really large percentage of people who have problems with drugs, and addiction is obviously a major concern.

Why is that?

A lot of it has to do with maybe the hours they work, a lot of it has to do with the age of a lot of the employees, since they’re younger. Historically, that’s been an industry where there is more access to drugs and alcohol. That has been a concern for many years in that industry.

And studies show that New Hampshire has the highest rate in the nation of young adults that are addicted.

Yes, per capita, it’s very high and extremely concerning. It’s interesting that this crisis has really shone a spotlight on what this whole problem has been in New Hampshire. It’s been going on for several years, but it’s just now kind of mushroomed to such a point where elected leaders can’t ignore it.

You’ve talked to business owners across the state. What are they saying about how they deal with this?

A lot of employers have Employee Assistance Plans, or EAPs, but in many cases, they’re just not adequate enough, especially to deal with something like heroin addiction. That’s the thing where you call someone on a phone and there’s not any real treatment that you can get. The other thing that’s very disturbing is that New Hampshire has very few if any treatment options for people who are going through this kind of addiction. I think what’s happened now is business people are just trying to take the bull by the horns.

There are some business leaders who are looking to take the lead when it comes to offering treatment and really addressing drug addiction in the workplace. What’s happening there?

Dick Anagnost, a well-known developer in Manchester, and Andy Crews, who owns the AutoFair dealerships, they have bought the old Hoitts Furniture building in Manchester and they plan on turning it into a drug treatment and rehabilitation center with the help of other people. They’re buying it, they’re going to rehab it, and going to rent it to a couple of nonprofits: Hope For New Hampshire and Amber’s Place. Hope For New Hampshire will be providing treatment and Amber’s Place will provide a place for addicts to live while they’re waiting for treatment. That’s been one of the problems; the services are barely existent in this state and this is two private business people who are so concerned that they’re actually taking action on it themselves.

And the idea is they don’t want to wait for any government action and they want to take action now?

Right. Just by their actions, they’re showing the government’s not doing anything. There is a special session on Nov. 18, and right now, it seems like the momentum is towards setting up some kind of committee to look at it. I think that isn’t the kind of action people in the business world would expect.