Opioids

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A new drug that’s 10,000 times stronger than morphine has hit the streets of New Hampshire. And that’s leaving many first responders scrambling to figure out how to deal with and treat this deadly substance.

Paige Sutherland

On Tuesday, public health officials confirmed the first cases of overdose deaths from carfentanil in New Hampshire. Carfentanil is a synthetic opiod and much more potent than the painkiller fentanyl. It can be mixed with heroin with deadly results. It can also be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled, posing a risk to first responders and health workers. 

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Public health officials announced Tuesday that for the first time in New Hampshire, the synthetic opioid carfentanil was found in the blood of three residents who died from overdoses. The drug is approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl, and is commonly used as a tranquilizer for large animals, including elephants.

Speaking at a press conference, Governor Chris Sununu said the state’s forensic lab  confirmed the presence of the drug earlier in the day.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Everyone in New Hampshire knows the state is grappling with an opioid crisis. But some advocates are worried we are forgetting about a problem that’s been with us for much longer.

FILE

New Hampshire is getting $3.1 million in federal money to help fight the ongoing opioid crisis.

Money that Congress approved last year to help states combat the opioid epidemic is headed to New Hampshire.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen says $485 million in grants will soon be administered to states. The money is part of the 21st Century Cures Act that was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

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On today's show:

TSCELEB NEWS / FLICKR/CC

A statewide drug enforcement program known as “Granite Hammer” is getting some pushback from lawmakers who argue it isn’t working.

The program, which began in Manchester in 2015,  is designed to get drug dealers off the streets.

Nashua Department of Public Health and Community Services

Nashua’s Health Department wants you to stop using the word “addict.”

“We need to talk about substance use disorder like the disease that it is,” health educator Aly McKnight told a captive audience of thirty or so in the basement of Nashua Public Library last month.  She pointed to a list of “stigmatizing” words projected onto a screen. “Alcoholic,” “junkie,” even “addiction” should be avoided, it said. 

Jason Moon for NHPR

During a swing through the Seacoast Friday morning, Governor Chris Sununu stopped by the local Opioid Task Force in Dover.

Reflecting on the crisis, he said the state could be doing better with drug prevention programs for kids in school.

“To be blunt, when the 65 year old gray-haired comes in to a bunch of 5th and 6th graders, or even high schoolers…’just say no’. That message ain’t cutting it. No one is listening to that,” said Sununu.

Sununu said the state Department of Education should start playing a role in developing better programs.

Jack Rodolico

Hannah Berkowitz is 20 years old and when she was a senior in high school her life flew off the rails. 

She was abusing drugs. She was suicidal. Berkowitz moved into a therapeutic boarding school to get sober. But she could only stay sober while she was on campus during the week.

NH's Opioid Crisis at a Crossroad

Apr 5, 2017

Few states have been as hard hit by the opioid epidemic as New Hampshire, where more than 1,600 Granite Staters have died of drug overdose since 2012. After several years battling the epidemic, some on the front lines of addiction are pointing to hopeful signs, even while urging vigilance and more investment in treatment and prevention. We take a look at what's working, what's not, and why some are raising alarms about an old scourge: alcohol. 


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New Hampshire's child protection agency is responding to the state's drug crisis with new policies requiring greater intervention when infants and toddlers are at risk.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu told the state’s Commission on Alcohol and Drugs Friday that workforce development and cutting regulation are key in addressing New Hampshire’s opioid crisis.

This is the first time Sununu has attended one of these meetings since taking office.

NHPR Staff

  A bill making it easier for people seeking treatment for a substance abuse problem unanimously cleared the New Hampshire Senate Wednesday.

Jack Rodolico

Gordon MacDonald is a step closer to becoming New Hampshire’s next Attorney General. On Tuesday, he met with the Executive Council to discuss his nomination by Governor Chris Sununu.

MacDonald is an experienced lawyer. Some of his highest profile cases have been battling the State of New Hampshire - and the very office he now seeks to lead.  

Brian Wallstin

A New Hampshire physician's assistant was arrested Friday by federal agents on allegations he received kickbacks for prescribing large amounts of an opioid painkiller. According to officials, Clough was the state's top prescriber of a fentanyl spray called Subsys.

Related story on Clough: Opioid Prescriber's Story a Cautionary Tale as N.H. Face Growing Crisis

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate has passed a measure to send nearly $37 million to cities and towns to repair roads and bridges.

The bill passed unanimously. Gov. Chris Sununu included a similar proposal in his budget plan. 

Senator Lou D’Allesandro told his colleagues on the floor Thursday it’s time the state helped local communities with their building projects. 

Since Rhode Island health officials reported a cluster of fatal overdoses of fentanyl in spring 2013, the drug has replaced prescription painkillers and heroin as the chief driver of the nation’s opioid crisis.

In New Hampshire, fentanyl has been implicated in at least 789 deaths since 2014, or two of every three fatal overdoses. Here are four reasons why New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic is now a fentanyl crisis.

Nixon Peabody

Gov. Chris Sununu has nominated Gordon MacDonald, a well-known Manchester attorney, to serve as Attorney General. MacDonald's clients include a major opioid maker being investigated by the state.

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A proposal to spend more state money to fight drug trafficking on New Hampshire’s highways unanimously cleared the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday. But estimating how much that effort will cost – is no simple task. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu wants lawmakers to fast-track a bill to hire five new state troopers to focus on cutting off the drug supply from out of state. That's on top of the ten additional troopers Sununu proposed in his state spending plan last month

This measure went before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday afternoon.

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: March 10, 2017

Mar 9, 2017

The N.H. legislature had a full calendar this week, debating changes to the state’s election laws, transgender rights and marijuana decriminalization.  N.H.'s congressional delegation reacts to President Trump's revised travel ban, and assesses the impact in  N.H, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes a surprise visit to an N.H. youth summit on opioid abuse.


Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A bill adding opioid addiction to the state’s policy on mandated treatment received broad support at a public hearing Tuesday.

Nearly 40 other states have similar policies on the books.

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Thousands of New Hampshire middle and high school students gathered in Manchester Tuesday for the state’s first-ever Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness.

Throughout the roughly three-hour summit, the message of prevention and social responsibility was not only directed at students but also geared for them too. 

Allison Quantz for NHPR

Following the introduction of new prescribing guidelines, surgeons at Dartmouth-Hitchcock are reducing the number of opioids they give patients after undergoing certain minor procedures.

Doctors say the initiative is an important step in reducing the number of painkillers available as the state reels from an ongoing opioid epidemic.

FILE

The public will get the chance to weigh in on a bill  Tuesday that would allow people battling an opioid addiction to be mandated to seek treatment.

About 40 states including Massachusetts have similar laws already in place.

FILE

When President Barack Obama signed the “21st Century Cures Act” into law last year, New Hampshire officials anticipated getting $10 million over the next biennium. That number has dropped to $6 million.

Tym Rurke, who chairs the Governor’s Commission on Drugs and Alcohol, says although the funding was supposed to be based on per capita overdose deaths – that wasn’t the case.

istock photo

The New Hampshire Insurance Department released the findings of a study Thursday that takes a look at how insurance companies are handling drug and alcohol abuse treatment claims.

The study, which examines the insurers Cigna, Anthem, and Harvard Pilgrim, was intended, in part, to determine if they were complying with federal parity law. In other words, do the companies provide comparable coverage for mental health, substance use disorders, and medical and surgical care?

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

For the past year, state and county prosecutors in New Hampshire have started enforcing a decades-old law that allows them to seek tougher penalties for drug dealers who sell lethal doses.

So far, the policy has led to a handful of convictions, with sentences ranging from a few years to 20 years in prison.

But critics warn this strategy will have little effect on the state’s epidemic of drug abuse.

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