Series: New Hampshire's Opioid Crisis

Britta Greene / New Hampshire Public Radio

Craig Perry stopped by the Claremont office of Hope for New Hampshire Recovery on Thursday afternoon. He struggled with addiction for a good chunk of his 20s, but now, at 30 years old, he’s been clean for about a year and a half.

His drug problems started when he took his first job after college, he said. He’d get high on lunch breaks.  “I didn’t know it’d affect me like that,” he said. “More and more, and then I had to go to heavier stuff.”

He’s been coming to the center here for about five months. He has a close relationship with its manager, who's been a bedrock counselor in his recovery.

Paige Sutherland / NHPR

Advocates for the Hope for New Hampshire Recovery center in Berlin are scrambling to save it. The center is one of four slated to close in the next two weeks.

Hope for New Hampshire offers peer-to-peer drug and alcohol recovery services, but the organization announced earlier this week that it’s in a financial bind, and has to close shop everywhere but Manchester.

Courtesy NH State Police

Law enforcement officials say a massive drug sweep on Thursday resulted in 151 arrests and the seizure of more than 550 grams of heroin and fentanyl.

The Granite Shield operation involved dozens of partner agencies who fanned out across the state, targeting opioid and other drug dealers.

AP

Congresswoman Annie Kuster says $6 billion in a new budget deal to fight the opioid epidemic is a good start. But she says a longer-term commitment is still missing - and she wants to ensure the funding formula treats smaller states fairly.

 

"It’s certainly more than is in the pipeline right now,” she says. “I think everyone agrees it’s critical that we get funding out on the front line to expand access to treatment and help people in their long-term recovery. We’ve got to get over the hump and save lives and get people back to work.”

Addiction in the Workplace

Feb 11, 2018
Pexels

In the midst of a drug crisis, New Hampshire is also dealing with a severe labor shortage.  So now, some employers and the state hope to creatively address where the two overlap, promoting so-called "recovery friendly workplaces".  We look at the practical, legal, and financial aspects of this. 

AP

New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan say they have helped to secure an agreement to provide an additional $6 billion to respond to the national opioid epidemic over the next two years.

The Democratic senators said Wednesday they also received assurances that the opioid funding formula will be improved to prioritize states like New Hampshire with high mortality rates from overdoses.

A former physician at Valley Regional hospital in Claremont has been charged with sexual assault.

The Claremont Police and Sullivan County Attorney's office announced the arrest of Dr. Eric L. Knight Monday after a months-long investigation.

The New Hampshire Board of Medicine suspended Knight's medical license in September. He was fired from Valley Regional in June.

AP

The obituary, so stark and visceral, captured the public’s attention.

It was for 24-year-old Molly Alice Parks. She died in 2015 of a heroin overdose in the bathroom of her Manchester workplace.

The obit’s final line: “If you have any loved ones who are fighting addiction, Molly’s family asks that you do everything possible to be supportive, and guide them to rehabilitation before it is too late.”

But what if you don’t? What if you’re lucky enough not to have a loved one battling this addiction?

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

Merrimack town councilors are set to vote Thursday on whether to create a specialized drug unit within the police force.

The proposal is in response to police reporting an influx of drug use at hotels in town – specifically meth use.

In just two weeks there have been 17 drug arrests, most involving meth.

Police Chief Denise Roy says without a drug unit, the department doesn’t have the time or resources to stop this from getting worse.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The Currier Museum in Manchester is launching a first-of-its-kind arts program to help parents whose children suffer from substance abuse.

As overdoses and deaths continue, New Hampshire physicians are responding to criticism that they've overprescribed. Now, some patients with chronic pain find themselves cut off from access to medications, left without other treatment options, and feeling that the anti-opioid push has gone overboard.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A crucial treatment provider in the state’s effort to combat the opioid crisis collapsed, with little warning, last month.

But some say this incident has exposed gaps in the state’s ability to oversee a critical system of care.

The city of Rochester is exploring launching a Safe Station program modeled after the one in Manchester.

The idea behind Manchester’s program is that anyone who wants help fighting their addiction can walk into any city fire station, at any time, and get connected with treatment services.

Rochester Mayor Caroline McCarley has been closely following the program and wants it, or something like it, in her city.

Britta Greene / NHPR

Dr. Anna Konopka, a physician in New London, surrendered her medical license in October to settle allegations from the New Hampshire Board of Medicine. Months later, she’s still fighting to reopen her doors.

As her battle plays out in the courts, many of her patients are struggling to find a new primary care doctor. Many of them are low income and reliant on pain medication day-to-day.

File photo

The Governor has called an emergency Executive Council meeting Friday morning to address a key drug treatment provider in Manchester that recently went under due to financial problems.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan says a bill she co-sponsored to help stop the flow of illegal fentanyl into the United States is on its way to the president's desk.

Hassan, a Democrat, says the bipartisan bill will provide scanning devices and other technology to Customs and Border Protection workers, and will boost funding for staff such as scientists to interpret screening results. Senate passage of the bill comes as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report finding that for the first time, fentanyl rather than heroin is now the deadliest opioid drug.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

As the state continues to grapple with a drug problem, top state lawmakers are hoping to get businesses to be a part of the solution.

FILE

Overdose deaths remain high, as 2017 comes to a close and state lawmakers are looking to secure more resources for the crisis when they return to the State House in January.

Flickr | frankieleon

Nashua is now the second New Hampshire city to sue pharmaceutical giants over their alleged role fueling the community’s opioid crisis. The city’s complaint is almost identical to one filed on behalf of the city of Manchester in September.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that New Hampshire had one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country last year.

file photo

A key player in the state’s fight against drug addiction has gone under financially, after running a deficit of more than half a million dollars.

A new report from UNH's Carsey School of Public Policy is sounding alarm over the growing number of New Hampshire infants born dependent on opioids.

Britta Greene / NHPR

NHPR News covered hundreds of stories in 2017. They ranged from the sublime (see Todd Bookman's story about an amateur synchronized swimming team in Hancock), to the tragic - such as Jack Rodolico's Heroin Diaries, in which a wife of an overdose victim discovers his videos chronicling his struggle.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

New Hampshire Democrats are backing a bill that would allow money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to be used to combat the opioid crisis.

The “RESCUE Act” would permit the governor or the state legislature to declare a public health emergency, triggering the release of 10 percent of the Rainy Day Fund, which currently totals around $100 million.

Senate Democrats say the money is needed to address the opioid crisis, and make up for a lack of funding from Washington.  

The state medical examiner’s office is dealing with a heavy workload amid the opioid crisis and staffing shortages. Its case load has nearly doubled in the last two decades due to population growth and the drug crisis. Former chief medical examiner Dr. Andrew Thomas retired this year, and Dr. Jennie Duval took his place.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Duval about how the office is coping with these challenges.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

NHPR File

With New Hampshire still in opioid crisis mode, Chris Hickey says part of the challenge continues to be fighting the stigma around drug addiction.

Hickey is the firefighter behind the Manchester Fire Department's "Safe Station," a program that welcomes addicts and directs them to available drug and substance abuse treatment and recovery services.

ThorPorre / Wikimedia Commons

The FDA announced last week that it plans to block U.S. shipments of a dietary supplement that's popular in New Hampshire.

The administration has issued an urgent warning about the herbal supplement kratom, saying it can be addictive and deadly. But former opioid users have said it’s helped them with recovery.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark about kratom and its use in New Hampshire.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Addressing the state’s drug crisis has been an all hands on deck approach from the medical community, law enforcement to social workers.

But advocates are saying one missing player in all this – has been employers. And how they can be a part of the solution. Whether that’s offering jobs to those in recovery or simply changing how addiction is addressed and talked about at work.

FILE

On Friday businesses in New Hampshire will come together for a job fair in Portsmouth targeted at hiring people in the drug recovery community.

The U.S. senators from New Hampshire and West Virginia have introduced a bill to prioritize federal funding for states that have been hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

It would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to take into account mortality rates and lack of access to treatment and services when allocating grants to states, rather than making determinations based on population size.

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