Opioids

thisweekinraymond.com

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

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Just two weeks into the new legislative session, Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed into law two bills aimed at tackling the state’s opioid epidemic.

The fast tracked bills came out of the state’s legislative drug task force that was crafted during last year’s special session. In 2015 more than 400 people died of a drug overdose.

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.

The bills considered high priority by New Hampshire's legislative drug task force, which is designed to address the state’s opioid crisis, passed the N.H. House with ease Wednesday afternoon.  

After getting through the Senate last week, these bills will now head to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who will sign them into law Thursday.

State Drug Czar Will Resign

Jan 15, 2016
Josh Rogers/NHPR

Jack Wozmak says with the legislature presently focused on the opioid crisis, now is a good time for him to step down as the state's so-called "drug czar." (Click here to read his resignation letter.) 

Addicted to prescription painkillers after a high-school sports injury, Cameron Burke moved on to heroin, which was cheaper and more easily accessible. His parents tried everything, more than once sending him out of state for treatment.

"It was never enough," Jennifer Weiss-Burke of Albuquerque, N.M., told a local TV reporter last year. "Thirty days here, 30 days there, maybe detox for five days. It was never long-term, and that's what he needed. Recovery from heroin addiction requires long-term treatment."

CREDIT GETTY IMAGES

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

 Less than a week after the legislative session opened, a trio of bills meant to address the state’s heroin crisis is heading for vote before the state Senate this Thursday.

The bills were vetted as part of a special task force that convened at the end of last year to focus specifically on issues related to the state's heroin and opioid crisis.

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

In Manchester this past year, more than 540 dirty syringes have been found. But as heroin use increases across the state, used needles are also showing up in cities like Nashua, Dover and Laconia.

As part of our series, Dangerous Ends, we look at one bill seeking to legalize needle exchange programs in New Hampshire – a proposal that has been controversial in the state.

New Hampshire saw at least 385 drug deaths in 2015, according to the latest tally from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner — but the actual total could be even higher, as some 45 cases are still pending toxicology.

Citing concern about illegal drug use, the Berlin school board will be making the anti-overdose drug Narcan available in its schools.

Almost six percent of Berlin high school students admitted trying heroin at least once, according to a 2013 student survey prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says Corinne Cascadden, the superintendent of the Berlin schools.

This Is How Heroin Hijacks Your Brain

Jan 11, 2016
Greta Rybus for NPR

When Jack O'Connor was 19, he was so desperate to beat his addictions to alcohol and opioids that he took a really rash step. He joined the Marines.

"This will fix me," O'Connor thought as he went to boot camp. "It better fix me or I'm screwed."

After 13 weeks of sobriety and exercise and discipline, O'Connor completed basic training, but he started using again immediately.

"Same thing," he says. "Percocet, like, off the street. Pills."

Chris Jensen for NHPR

On Friday Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the federal government should take the problem with heroin and opioids as seriously as its concern over Ebola.

She made the comments during a meeting with about two dozen health and social workers, educators and police at the Berlin High School.

She said while the budget Congress approved last month has more money to deal with drug problems it is not enough.

The New Hampshire Legislature's joint task force on opioid and heroin abuse worked through December to discuss the state's growing drug epidemic. Those recommendations have been sent to the governor and public leaders, and they'll start going through a public hearing process in the legislature next week.

Joining NHPR to talk about what the task force concluded is Senator Jeb Bradley. He served as chair of the task force.

The recommendations your forwarded fell into a few different priority levels. Can you spell them out for us?

Casey McDermott, NHPR

New Hampshire’s heroin and opioid epidemic has become a front-and-center issue on the campaign trail – prompting presidential candidates from both parties to answer question after question about what they’d do to fight addiction on a national level.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

As a state task force on heroin and opioid misuse wraps up its official work, lawmakers involved say the real work is just beginning.

(Left cousin Sofia Ford, step dad Ron Croce, younger brother Ryan Belanger, cousin Eva Ford, aunt Nena Stracuzzi, mother Lisa Stracuzzi, aunt Francesca Kennedy.)
Paige Sutherland/NHPR

In the coming weeks New Hampshire lawmakers hope to fast-track a number of bills to address the growing number of drug overdose deaths, which is on track to reach more than 400 this year.  As part of our year-long series on the state's opioid crisis called "Dangerous Ends" we look behind the numbers and hear one family’s story of loss.


Wikimedia Commons

When New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana in July 2013, no one expected the program to be up and running overnight.

Two and a half years later, however, none of the dispensaries envisioned under the new law are open, and the only patient who has received medical marijuana had to file a lawsuit for the right to travel out of state to get it.

So what’s taken so long?

Jack Rodolico

Last Friday, Linda Horan sat in front of a bank of reporters in the back room of a medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Maine. She was beaming.

"My god, I’m over the moon – completely over the moon," she said.

Most Rite Aid drug stores in New Hampshire will now stock Narcan.

If administered early enough, the drug can save lives by reversing an overdose.  

Pharmacies with a standing doctor’s order can distribute Narcan to anyone who asks for it – just like a flu shot. On Monday, Rite Aid became the first pharmacy franchise to get a standing order for Narcan at all its pharmacies in the state. The company has committed to stocking drug at most of its 69 NH locations.  

Eric Molina via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/4wWBoY

Seeing an increase in drug overdoses by the same people on multiple occasions, a coalition of fire chiefs is seeking state money to hire drug counselors who can train first responders in how to better direct victims toward treatment and recovery services.

Emergency responders have administered nearly 3,000 doses this year of the opioid antidote naloxone, known by its brand name Narcan. It reflects a spike of more than 300 percent since 2012, before the state's current opioid crisis hit its height.

Kevin Karns via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/PyK3i

There have been 342 drug deaths in New Hampshire so far this year, and state officials are expecting the total to surpass 400 by the end of 2015.

Steve Smithe via Flickr

The New Hampshire Medical Society told lawmakers that crafting best practices for prescribing opioids should be left to the medical community.  

James F Clay/FLICKR

A bill that would mandate education on drugs and alcohol in schools is likely to be fast tracked once lawmakers return to Concord in January.

 

New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster tells lawmakers that overdose deaths will top 400 this year, more than double the deaths in 2013.

Foster addressed a legislative task force Tuesday as the state looks to rein in a growing abuse epidemic. Three hundred people have already died from drug overdoses, most from heroin and the powerful painkiller fentanyl. In 2013, there were 192 overdose deaths.

Courtesy the NH House of Representatives

 The idea of expanding drug courts in New Hampshire got an initial stamp of approval from the finance division of the state’s heroin and opioid task force on Tuesday and will now head to the full task force for further approval.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Lawmakers are meeting again this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to figure out how to tackle the state’s opioid crisis. So far, the drug task force has covered topics such as stricter penalties for fentanyl possession and increasing funds for the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. 

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A New Hampshire drug treatment program wants to give people a way to exchange used needles for clean ones, but the plan could require a change to state laws on the possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

A special task force on the state's opioid crisis has given the initial stamp of approval to a bill that would impose stricter criminal penalties for the distribution of fentanyl.

Sharon Morrow

The manager for New Hampshire’s prescription drug monitoring program told lawmakers Tuesday that more funding would help the system to better handle an expected increase in use that could come with efforts to more closely monitor opioid prescribing.

As part of a special legislative session on heroin and opioid misuse, Gov. Maggie Hassan and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley have each proposed giving the program $100,000 in state money to help with technology upgrades that would encourage more widespread use.

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