N.H. Senate Passes Task Force-Backed Bills to Tackle Drug Use

Jan 14, 2016

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Legislative leaders on both sides are cheering the Senate’s passage of three bills meant to address the state’s heroin and opioid crisis.

One of the bills would require public schools to teach “age appropriate drug and alcohol education” at all grade levels, kindergarten through high school. Another would set up a commission to study issues related to the overdose reversal drug, Narcan  — looking at, among other things, training and reporting requirements around the use of the drug. 

A third bill tackles a number of areas: tightening penalties for illegal fentanyl use, streamlining insurance standards for the coverage of substance abuse treatment, adding requirements to the use of the prescription drug monitoring program, and more. 

These three bills came out of a special task force convened at the end of last year to focus on legislation to address drug issues in New Hampshire. The task force had given these bills a green light for a speedier review process than normal.

From here, the House is expected to vote on the bills next week with a goal of sending them to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk by the end of January.

A number of other bills vetted by the task force will also be reviewed in the months ahead. Those include a proposal to set up a statewide system of drug courts and another to update prescribing rules for the Board of Medicine, among others.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, who chaired the task force and sponsored one of the bills moving forward, said the vote by the Senate “showed a continuation of our effort to make changes to our laws to help curb the substance abuse crisis facing our state.”

Sen. Nancy Stiles, who sponsored the bill to mandate drug and alcohol education, said her legislation has an important role in stemming future drug issues: “Ensuring that our student are receiving preventative drug and alcohol instruction consistently starting at a young age effectively decreases the likelihood of substance abuse by our students later on.”

Hassan, in her own statement, also applauded the bills’ passage but again called on legislators to reauthorize the state’s Medicaid expansion.

“There remains broad, bipartisan support for several other  measures considered by the legislature’s task force over the past couple of months, as well as bipartisan recognition that reauthorization of the New Hampshire Health Care Protection Program is critical to expanding treatment capacity,” Hassan said. “I will continue to focus on working with members of both parties to strengthen our efforts to combat this horrible epidemic.”

According to the latest data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 385 people died of drug overdoses in 2015 — but the final count could end up being even higher.