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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.


Law enforcement officials are pushing back against a bill that allows people to drop off illegal drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, and drug paraphernalia at police stations.

Currently police stations accept unused prescription drugs in designed drop boxes.

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. 

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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.  

Dirty Bunny via Flickr/CreativeCommons


New Hampshire would join the rest of the New England in making it easier for addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones under a bill being heard by a House committee.

Under current law, hypodermic needles and syringes can only be dispensed by pharmacists, and possessing a used syringe with heroin residue on it is a felony.

At least five men and five women have died of drug overdoses in New Hampshire so far in 2016, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The actual number of drug deaths this year could be higher, as an additional 86 possible overdose cases are still awaiting toxicology. It can take several months for the state to fully review a suspected overdose to confirm the cause of death.

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.

A federal bill aimed at helping states tackle the ongoing heroin and opioid epidemic cleared a major hurdle Thursday. 

The measure calls for roughly $70 million over the next three years to help expand treatment for people battling addiction while in prison and drug prevention efforts in schools. It would also strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs.

The bill easily passed the U.S. Senate on a 94 to 1 vote and now heads to the House.

New Hampshire Senate
Allegra Boverman / NHPR

New Hampshire child protection officials would have more power to intervene when a parent is abusing drugs or a child is born drug dependent under a bill adopted by the state’s senate. The bill passed unanimously but not without debate.

The bill defines opioid abuse or dependence by a parent as neglect under New Hampshire's Child Protection Act. Right now that law doesn't identify specific conduct by parents as being sufficient to trigger neglect proceedings.

  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
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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.

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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.

Jim Cole/AP

In the months leading up to Tuesday’s primary, nearly every presidential candidate mentioned New Hampshire’s opioid and heroin epidemic while on the stump in the Granite State.

But now that the New Hampshire primary has come and gone - will this issue be forgotten on the campaign trail as candidates' shift focus to other states?

How did the drug issue became a talking point on the 2016 trail?


A federal bill that provides money for addiction treatment and drug prevention has passed its first hurdle. Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen co-sponsored the legislation. 

The bill calls for additional dollars for a number of areas including treatment for people battling addiction while in prison, drug prevention efforts in schools, and expanding access to the overdose reversal drug Narcan.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure by a unanimous vote. But how much of the bill’s $70 million would go to New Hampshire is unknown.

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

The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday passed three bills aimed at combating the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.

The measures include the creation of a state drug court program, improvements to the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, the addition of more than $2 million to help police combat the drug epidemic, and money to buy 27 additional state police cruisers. 

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.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

As New Hampshire tries to address an epidemic of opiate abuse, leaders in the state often focus on increasing the number of treatment beds and programs. But many in the state say staffing those programs may be much harder than building them.

Addiction treatment programs have been facing staffing shortages across the country for many years. In New Hampshire, things are particularly bad.  

Courtesy of the U.S. Senate

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard joined New Hampshire's two U.S. Senators in Washington Wednesday to testify on a bill aimed at combating the heroin epidemic.