N.H. Senate Passes Bill to Add Drug Abuse to Child Neglect Laws

Mar 10, 2016

Credit Allegra Boverman / NHPR

New Hampshire child protection officials would have more power to intervene when a parent is abusing drugs or a child is born drug dependent under a bill adopted by the state’s senate. The bill passed unanimously but not without debate.

The bill defines opioid abuse or dependence by a parent as neglect under New Hampshire's Child Protection Act. Right now that law doesn't identify specific conduct by parents as being sufficient to trigger neglect proceedings.

Republican senator Kevin Avard of Nashua worried the new language carried the risk the state could remove children from families prematurely.

"When we give a department more power, we have to tread extremely lightly.”

Keene Democrat Molly Kelly, meanwhile, argued that giving the state more power to act could help families where opioid use is a problem the help they need to stay together.

"The purpose of this is not a taking, not a taking of a child but of making a family whole."

Under the bill, the section where parental drug abuse is defined as harm, will expire in 2020. The hope is by then the state's opioid crisis, which included 400 overdose deaths in New Hampshire last year, will have faded.