Opioids

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The Legislature's new drug task force kicks off Tuesday with its first meeting aimed to help better address the state's opioid crisis.

The group has a busy schedule, with nearly 20 people expected to speak over the course of the day. That will include Manchester Chief of Police Nick Willard, and Tym Rourke, who chairs the Governor's commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

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 Senator Jeanne Shaheen is calling for an additional $600 million in emergency federal funding to tackle opioid and heroin misuse across the country — and she says, as in previous public health crises, the federal government needs to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to this issue.

“We’re really looking at, how can we have a coordinated effort? The federal government did that in fighting Ebola. They’ve done that in other health emergencies,” Shaheen said. “We’re saying that this is a health emergency, and we need to ramp in the same way to fight it on all fronts.”

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is proposing $600 million in emergency funding to address the nation's opioid and heroin abuse crisis.

The bulk of the money would go to the Department of Health and Human Services, including $250 million that would be distributed to states as block grants for prevention, treatment and recovery programs. Another $200 million would go to the Department of Justice for grants that fund programs focused on law enforcement, courts and education.

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

Approved by a special legislative session, a newly minted task force will spend the next weeks considering several options for tackling the state’s drug problem, which has claimed more than five hundred lives in the last two years. The goal is to craft legislation quickly -- in time for the January return of the legislature.

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New Hampshire lawmakers Wednesday overwhelmingly signed off on a joint task force charged with addressing the state’s opioid epidemic. The vote came in a special session of the Legislature.

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Lawmakers will gather at the State House in Concord Wednesday for a special session devoted solely to tackling the issue of substance abuse.

The state saw a record number of drug overdoses last year – more than 300 – and opioid, heroin, and prescription drug abuse continues to plague communities across the Granite State.

To talk about the special session, Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem joined NHPR's Morning Edition.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

 

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte says New Hampshire is getting more help in prosecuting drug traffickers.

Ayotte says she has secured a commitment from the Drug Enforcement Administration to create a federally-funded, full-time position in the U.S. attorney's office to enhance efforts to prosecute drug traffickers. Ayotte, a Republican, had written a letter to Department of Justice officials in October requesting funding for the position.

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With all of the recent posturing at the State House, it might be easy to assume that Gov. Maggie Hassan and Republicans in the Legislature are having trouble finding common ground on how best to tackle substance abuse. But, as lawmakers gear up for a special session devoted to New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic, that’s not necessarily the case.

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By all accounts, New Hampshire in the throes of a drug addiction crisis; more than 300 people died from drug overdoses last year, the most in state history.

But while there’s the human toll, there’s also an impact on businesses and the state’s overall economy.

To talk more about that, Jeff Feingold, editor of the New Hampshire Business Review, joined NHPR's Morning Edition to talk about NHBR's reporting on the issue.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Republican lawmakers will propose a special task force to review solutions to the state’s opioid crisis when the Legislature returns for a special session next week. 

Hassan To Speak At Regional Forum On Opioids

Nov 9, 2015
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New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker are among those taking part in a regional forum on opioid addiction. The half-day conference in Boston will look at state and federal initiatives to stem the crisis, improve prevention and response to more opioid addiction.

Rachel Kaprielan is the regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She says regional stakeholders hope to share ideas about what’s working in the region.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

 When Tim Pifer started out two decades ago as a drug chemist with the state, it didn’t take long at all to process the drug samples dropped off by law enforcement.

“There literally was a time when we’d take the drugs in, and we’d tell the officers to go downstairs and have a coffee, and we’d give you the drugs back,” Pifer recalled Friday.

Not so anymore.

New Hampshire’s medical board adopted emergency rules for opioid prescribers Wednesday, but rejected many of the changes sought by Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Brian Wallstin/NHPR

For years, Chris Clough prescribed more pain medication than almost anyone else in New Hampshire.

Along the way, state regulators say, he broke nearly every rule in the book.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Gov. Maggie Hassan is asking lawmakers to return to Concord nearly two months early to begin working on legislation aimed to help those battling drug addiction. 

Jason Meserve, NHPR

An NHPR interview with Congressman Frank Guinta.

Sharon Morrow

New Hampshire Reps. Annie Kuster and Frank Guinta are hosting a roundtable discussion to help solve the growing heroin epidemic in their home state.

The representatives plan to discuss their Stop the Overdose Problem Already Becoming a Universal Substance Epidemic Act, which they introduced this month. The act proposes a comprehensive approach to treatment and stopping the nationwide heroin epidemic.

Chris Jensen/NHPR

Here's an issue with bipartisan consensus: Both parties agree the opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing challenges facing New Hampshire. But Democrats and Republicans in the State House are not quite yet reading from the same script on how to tackle this problem.

Last year, Erin and Isaac Hougland of Indianapolis got certified to become foster parents, with the hope of adopting a baby. Just a few weeks later, they got a call.

An 8-week-old baby needed a home. All they knew was that the boy's mother was a heroin addict and had left him at the hospital. They were told that because of the drugs, the baby might require some special care. But mostly, he just needed a place to go.

"Both of us were just like, 'Let's do it,' " says Isaac Hougland. "We wrapped up what we were doing at work and went to the hospital."

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte that’s meant to address one particularly troubling side effect of the nation’s opioid crisis: growing drug dependence among infants.

The bill requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to review how it deals with “neonatal abstinence syndrome” (or “NAS”). It also calls upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help states improve public health monitoring and data collection around NAS.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The overdose reversal drug naloxone, better known as Narcan, has been available to anyone who wants it since June. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get.

John Burns runs a substance abuse support group for families in Dover. He says since the law passed, none of the nearly 30 people in his group has been able to get a prescription.

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