opioids

A 26-year-old Portsmouth woman was sentenced to serve between eight and 20 years in prison for selling the fatal dose of drugs that caused a Maine man to overdose in 2015.

NH1.com reports Amanda Burgess was sentenced Tuesday after reaching an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to charges of supplying fentanyl with death resulting.

Prosecutors say Burgess sold a $40 dose of the synthetic opiate to 27-year-old Joseph Cahill, who was found dead on June 15, 2015. Burgess, a known heroin dealer, fled New Hampshire after the York, Maine man died.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Manchester accounted for nearly a quarter of the fatal drug overdoses reported across New Hampshire last year, according to newly released data from the medical examiner’s office.

The state's largest city saw 106 overdoses last year, out of a statewide total of 433.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Last year saw more drug overdose deaths than ever before in New Hampshire.

So far in 2016, the state’s confirmed at least 48 deaths, with another 89 potential cases on top of that — officials are waiting for more toxicology reports to add those into the total.

The death toll, however, only tells part of the story of the opioid crisis in New Hampshire.

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The New Hampshire House on Wednesday backed a bill calling for an additional $5 million to help combat the state’s current opioid crisis.

Under the measure, $3, million will go to treatment services while $2 million will help to provide housing for those battling an addiction. It also includes money to hire a state attorney to prosecute drug cases.

Charles Willams / Flickr/CC

Heroin pills. That’s how Andrew Kolodny describes oxycodone, one of the most widely prescribed – and abused – narcotic painkillers in the U.S. 

Kolodny is executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and senior scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He joined The Exchange this week to discuss the opioid crisis – its origins and how states, including New Hampshire, are trying to overcome it.

Prescribing Opioids During an Addiction Epidemic

Apr 14, 2016
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State lawmakers, doctors, and others in the medical profession have been hammering out new guidelines for prescribing these drugs to tackle the issue of over-use and alleviate the addiction crisis. We'll get the latest on this discussion and also find out how New Hampshire's approach compares with other states.

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  One of Boston's top hospitals is seeing an increasing number of drug abusers shoot up on its property, a tactic experts say opioid addicts hope will save them from lethal overdoses. 

Peter Biello for NHPR

Thirty-eight-year old James Vara is about to become the state's so-called Drug Czar. For another few weeks, he'll be wrapping up his work as a Senior Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, but when he starts his new position, he'll be taking a leading role in solving a problem that killed more than four hundred people in New Hampshire last year: the state's opiate addiction crisis.

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The battle lines on the fight over the future of New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion are well-defined as the issue comes up for a vote in the state Senate tomorrow.

On Wednesday’s episode of The Exchange, State Sens. Jeb Bradley and Andy Sanborn — a vocal proponent and opponent of the expansion, respectively — sparred over a number of elements of the program, including its effects on the state's drug crisis.

When Eddie Sawyer called his former partner Eileen Shea and told her he was on a waitlist to get into the Friendship House, northern New Hampshire’s only residential treatment facility, she offered to take him to the hospital to try to detox off heroin while he waited for a bed. But Shea knew there was no guarantee the hospital would admit Sawyer.

New Hampshire Senate
Allegra Boverman / NHPR

The state Senate is taking up a bill that would give roughly $3 million in additional funding to various substance abuse and addiction related programs.

The upper chamber is poised to vote on a bill including the money Thursday. 

Todd Huffman / Flickr/CC

Designed to reduce the spread of disease by distributing clean needles to drug users, needle exchange programs can also provide outreach and referral for treatment.  Now, a bill in the legislature would allow these centers in New Hampshire. And while there's general support, concerns include whether to decriminalize trace amounts of heroin.

Jim Cole/Associated Press

Governor Maggie Hassan named a drug prosecutor to be the state's new 'Drug Czar.' James Vara helped draft newly enacted legislation to stiffen penalties for Fentanyl distribution.

Via krakenkraton.com

The N.H. Senate unanimously approved a bill to ban the use of Kratom by minors. Kratom is a plant from a tree similar to coffee that derives from Southeast Asia. It has been used for decades as an herbal tea and can also be smoked.

Kratom is currently sold throughout the United States in smoke shops and specialty stores. Those who use it say it helps with chronic pain and curbs opioid addiction.

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We're checking in on the state's response to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Lawmakers were evenly split Tuesday on whether or not the House should support the legalization of needle exchange programs in New Hampshire.

After a 7 to 7 vote, the bill now heads to the full House next week without recommendation from the Criminal Justice Committee. Last month the Health and Human Services Committee unanimously backed the measure.  

Narcan, also known as naloxone, is an anti-overdose drug.
Paige Sutherland for NHPR

New Hampshire is set to receive $1.2 million dollars to help community health centers deal with opioid abuse. 

Jack Rodolico

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s investigation into marketing practices by large pharmaceutical companies hit a roadblock this week. The Attorney General wants to know if those companies have been deceptively marketing opioids - drugs that have been diverted in mass quantities to fuel addictions and overdoses. But a court order now slows down that process.

  New Hampshire US Senator Kelly Ayotte is using this week's Republican response to President Obama to highlight the opioid crisis. 

Addressing N.H.'s Addiction Counselor Shortage

Mar 1, 2016
Phoenix House Academy of Dublin / Flickr/CC

As overdose deaths skyrocket,  there's been a statewide call for more access to drug treatment, and more funding for it.  But treatment centers are scrambling to find and keep enough trained staff to meet the demand.  Chronic issues, such as low pay and bureaucracy add to the burden of helping a patient through recovery.

At least three people have died from drug overdoses so far this year in New Hampshire, but the state medical examiner's office is awaiting toxicology results on another 60 cases that have come into its lab this year.

According to the most recent data, at least 420 people died from drug overdoses in 2015 — that figure is more than double what it was two years ago.

A new Massachusetts law criminalizing the trafficking of fentanyl is taking effect.

The law creates the crime of trafficking in fentanyl for amounts greater than 10 grams with punishment of up to 20 years in state prison. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.

Jack Rodolico

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is trying to figure out if the state's largest insurance companies are covering opioid treatment the way the law requires.

The preliminary findings of the department's ongoing investigation are inconclusive.

Steve Smith via Flickr CC

An initial review of whether New Hampshire insurance companies are appropriately covering substance abuse treatment shows significant differences in how often claims are denied, but experts identified problems with only a handful of cases.

The probe comes as New Hampshire seeks to expand treatment and recovery services amid a growing heroin and opioid crisis. The state insurance department began looking into the issue in November after hearing from complaints from providers and advocates, and officials presented their preliminary findings in Concord on Friday.

Here & Now has reported extensively on the opioid crisis, the increasing numbers of people becoming addicted to prescription pain pills and heroin, and the spike in overdoses. Often drowned out in the conversations about the current epidemic, though, are the experiences and voices of chronic pain patients, many of whom say opioids are the only drugs that help them live with near-constant pain.

As state officials feared, drug overdose deaths rose significantly in New Hampshire last year, to well over 400 cases.

The latest data from the state's medical examiner show that 414 people suffered fatal overdoses in 2015, up from 326 in 2014 and 192 the year before.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Gov. Maggie Hassan will give her last State of the State address Thursday at 1:30 at the State House.

The two-time Governor will finish up her term in November as she pursues a U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte.

Dirty Bunny via Flickr/CreativeCommons

A bill seeking to legalize needle exchange programs in New Hampshire is getting some pushback from law enforcement. The debate rests on whether to make it legal to have trace amounts of heroin on a needle.

If passed the measure would legalize minute amounts of heroin left on used syringes. The aim, according to sponsor Rep. Joe Hannon, is to make sure those seeking to exchange dirty needles for clean ones can do so without fearing arrest.

thisweekinraymond.com

Manchester's chief of police is set to testify this week on Capitol Hill about New Hampshire's opioid epidemic.   

File Photo

The 72-acre, sprawling campus of Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center - with about a dozen buildings overlooking lakes and mountains - has always been used as a place to treat people with brain injuries or developmental disabilities. But there has always been controversy too.

    

In 1992 the FBI raided the site when they suspected the original owners of fraud. And then last year, after the Disability Rights Center put out a scathing report on Lakeview’s practices, the state shut it down. The place was notorious for poor care. But Eric Spofford hopes to change all that.

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