Heroin

States would receive four dollars in federal money for every dollar they invest in substance abuse prevention and treatment under a plan announced today by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The plan, outlined in a conference call with reporters, would direct $10 billion in new federal funds to drug and alcohol addiction programs over 10 years.

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 Lawmakers and Governor Maggie Hassan supported legislation this year to make Narcan more accessible so it can be used to save the lives of people experiencing an opiate overdose. Narcan has often been referred to as the Epipen of heroin, but David Brooks says that comparison doesn’t hold up in some key ways. Brooks is a reporter for The Concord Monitor and blogs at Granitegeek.org. He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

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Since appointed by Governor Hassan to lead the fight against an epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse, Wozmak has faced some political pushback and a budget impasse. We’ll talk with him about that and hear his plan for marshaling the state’s resources to tackle drug abuse and overdose deaths.

GUEST:

  • Jack Wozmak – New Hampshire’s senior director of Substance Misuse and Behavioral Health for the Governor’s Office, also known as the state’s ‘drug czar.’
     
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New Hampshire officials say they want to work more closely with the medical community to stop the growth in heroin abuse.

Courtesy of MPD

Officials in Manchester are calling for new efforts and better coordination against heroin abuse.

The city held a “Stop the Circle Rally” Saturday in Veterans Memorial Park.

Mayor Ted Gatsas told the crowd that he and other city officials met with the heads of area hospitals to find ways to work together against drug abuse.

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A series of physician-training sessions aimed at reducing the amount of opioids prescribed to patients who may go on to become addicted will kick off in Bedford in November.

 

New Hampshire politicians were quick to praise a new White House initiative to combat heroin use and trafficking.

Amid a spike in heroin use and deaths across the country, the Obama administration on Monday announced $5 million initiative focused on states along the East Coast.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

 

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte is urging the Health and Human Services secretary to work with the state to ease costly requirements for some residential drug treatment centers to obtain a health care facility license.

She said recent reports indicate that stringent licensing requirements could force several centers to cut the number of available beds and reduce their ability to serve people dealing with substance abuse issues.

Ayotte said this is a serious concern in light of state's heroin and prescription drug addiction crisis.

www.drug-alcohol.com

  When the Department of Corrections begins offering naltrexone to male inmates sometime this fall, it will put New Hampshire among the more than 20 states that use the drug to treat incarcerated addicts.

New Hampshire, however, will launch the program using the oral version of naltrexone, which studies show faces more barriers to success than the extended-release injections used in other prisons and jails across the country.

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Chris Rocket has been in prison for 19 years. His convictions are for second degree murder and robbery. The crimes, he says, were the result of an alcohol addiction.

His addiction to heroin and prescription drugs?

He got hooked on those while incarcerated at the state prison in Berlin.


Governor Maggie Hassan and Senator Jeanne Shaheen gathered with law enforcement officials in Laconia Monday to push for more funding for substance abuse treatment and prevention. The group says politics is standing in the way of progress in confronting the city’s heroin epidemic.

 

Police and judicial officials are joining Gov. Maggie Hassan and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to address cooperation at the federal, state and local levels to deal with heroin and opioid abuse in New Hampshire.

They've scheduled a Monday morning news conference in Laconia with a focus on funding prevention and treatment programs in the federal and state budgets.

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Efforts to combat the state's growing heroin and opioid abuse problems have become the latest political football in the budget battle between Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and Republican lawmakers.

The debate will play out Wednesday when a legislative committee must decide whether to accept $112,500 in grant money to continue paying Hassan's senior director for substance misuse and behavioral health, known as the state's "drug czar." Hassan appointed Jack Wozmak in January.

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Manchester's police chief is hosting a forum Tuesday night for the public to talk about the city's heroin epidemic.

Chief Nick Willard will be one of seven panel members at the forum at the Radisson Hotel from 5 to 7 p.m.

Manchester police Lt. Brian O’Keefe says drug activity in the city continues to surge at an alarming rate.

“We’re well over I believe 47 deaths since Jan. 1,” he said. “In addition to that, we have responded to probably well over 250 overdose-related calls since Jan. 1. The numbers are staggering in the city.”

Josh Rogers/NHPR

Sen. Andy Sanborn has called for New Hampshire's so-called "drug czar" to resign, two days before a legislative committee will decide whether to extend the official's contract.

Josh Rogers

Jack Wozmak, Gov. Maggie Hassan's pick to spearhead the state's fight against opioid abuse, has been on the job since early February, but this week has amounted to his coming out.  It hasn’t been all – or even mostly -- smooth. 

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New Hampshire’s drug czar has released his initial recommendations on how the state can combat its growing opioid problem.

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Officials say the spike in heroin use in New Hampshire has created a new problem— dangerous needles being left at parks where children play.

Courtesy Keene Serenity Center

For years, advocates for people with addiction problems have been working to create a viable recovery system for New Hampshire. New organizations in Keene, Manchester and Portsmouth are working to help people stay away from addictive drugs. But the state still has a long way to go. 

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As part of the state's effort to address the ongoing drug abuse problem, Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed a bill that will spare people from criminal prosecution in certain cases if they are reporting a drug overdose.

The new head of the Manchester Police Department is calling on lawmakers to step up when it comes to combating New Hampshire’s heroin epidemic.

Chief Nick Willard says law enforcement is doing everything it can.

“We’ve already seized 27,000 grams of heroin year to date. And that is an extraordinary number. Over $300,000 seized in cash associated with those drug seizures.”

But Willard, who took over as chief just last week, says arrests only go so far. He says what’s really needed is more treatment.

The Senate has passed a bill giving immunity to those who report drug overdoses in only certain situations.

The measure aims to encourage people to call 911 by removing the fear of facing any jail time.

But the included amendment, introduced by Sen. Molly Kelly,  is to make sure only true witnesses are given this immunity.

“So the language that was taken out was any thought or anyone would think that they would have immunity from domestic violence, rape or murder,” she told her fellow colleagues.

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People who use heroin or other opioids will now be able to obtain a prescription for an emergency treatment that can reverse the effects of an overdose.

Nalaxone was previously only available to police officers and emergency medical providers trained in its use. On Tuesday, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill into law that removes Nalaxone – which is sold under the trade name Narcan - from the state’s list of controlled substances, making it available to drug users and the friends and family of people with a history of opioid abuse. 

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

As the heroin crisis in New Hampshire continues, and the number of overdoses grows, communities around the state are addressing the issues with increasing urgency.

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A powerful synthetic opioid manufactured in illicit labs was the main driver of the record 325 drug-related deaths in New Hampshire last year.

Fentanyl is used to manage severe chronic and post-surgical pain. As a pharmaceutical, prescribed in lozenges or transdermal patches, it is 10 to 50 times more potent than morphine.

But, increasingly, a powdered form of the drug that is 200 to 2,000 times more potent is being mixed with heroin or passed off as heroin to unwitting users.

Downtown Portsmouth.
Squirrel Flight via Flickr/Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/squirrelflight/1355544138/in/photostream/

  Police in Portsmouth say they’re investigating what may be another heroin-related death.

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte sat down with medical staff and first responders at the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester on Monday to discuss the growing number of infants being exposed to heroin and other opioids in the womb.

Ayotte announced she is co-sponsoring legislation along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to address this issue. 

On The Political Front is our weekly conversation with NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers. 

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The rate of young adults in New Hampshire with substance-abuse problems is the highest in the country, even as the Granite State is the worst at providing treatment when they need it.

Research suggests that 7.4 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds in the Granite State abuse or are dependent on illicit drugs, more than in any other state.

At the same time, no state spends less on substance-abuse programs, with nearly nine percent of young adults who seek out addiction treatment forced to wait for it.

 

Courtesy of MPD

A community forum Wednesday night will focus on how the heroin epidemic is impacting southern New Hampshire.

The Union Leader reports the forum is being held Alvirne High School in Hudson, and will include experts from the Hudson police and fire department.

Local health professionals will also be on hand to discuss treatment and support programs available for addicts.

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