Series: New Hampshire's Opioid Crisis

CREDIT SARA PLOURDE / NHPR

The State's so-called "drug czar" is stepping down. 

James Vara, who held the position for the past year, has been nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu to serve as Chief of Staff for the Attorney General. The Executive Council must approve Vara's new position at next week's meeting.

Flickr Creative Commons / Brave Sir Robin

The Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse joined New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster in Hanover Tuesday afternoon. They spoke as part of a discussion on the opioid crisis hosted by Dartmouth College.

Kuster took advantage of the opportunity to criticize President Trump’s proposed cuts to Medicaid. “We all know the importance of access to treatment for addressing this crisis," she said. "I will continue to hold this administration accountable for their actions in addressing the opioid epidemic.”

5.24.17: Spring Picks

May 24, 2017

It's spring picks week on Word of Mouth. We've scoured our playlists to bring you some of the most powerful audio we've heard in recent months. And we start with the story of a community gripped by the opioid epidemic, and how some locals are trying to stop it.

Plus we’ll hear what happens when Terry Gross switches roles and becomes the interviewee.

Links to all of today's picks can be found below.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The state Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed that the potent synthetic opiate Carfentanil has been involved in a total of six deaths in New Hampshire. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

When recovering from an opioid addiction, one important step is finding safe, drug-free housing.

There are a lot of places in New Hampshire that call themselves 'sober living.' But with no state oversight there’s no real way to check how sober these houses actually are.

Screenshot from D.C. Presser

Democratic U.S. Senators from New Hampshire and other states hit hardest by the opioid crisis spoke out Tuesday about what they see as failures by President Donald Trump to address the epidemic.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen started off the press conference in D.C. quoting President Trump on a promise she says he’s not living up to.

Governor Chris Sununu on The Exchange

May 15, 2017
Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu sits down with The Exchange to discuss the Republican health care overhaul currently in the U.S. Senate -- and implications for the opioid crisis in the Granite State.  

We'll get Sununu's take on the two-year spending plan for the state, after the House failed to come up with its own version of the budget for the first time in recent memory.  And we look at the recent controversy over mental health staffing at the New Hampshire State Hospital.


Weekly N.H. News Roundup: May 12, 2017

May 12, 2017

President Trump names N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner to a Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price visits New Hampshire to hear about the state’s response to the opioid crisis.  And legislative hearings into online postings by two state reps become contentious.  


Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway stopped by Manchester’s central firehouse Wednesday, as part of the Trump Administration’s nationwide listening tour focused on the opioid epidemic.

During her visit, Conway had little to say herself. But her presence spurred lots of talk among the locals.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

After visiting Michigan and West Virginia, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price swung through Concord and Manchester Wednesday on a ‘listening tour’ regarding the opioid epidemic. Price spent about an hour at the State House meeting in private with treatment providers, families affected by opioid misuse and first responders.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office says its staff is working around the clock to get the powerful synthetic opioid Carfentanil off the streets.

Cases of Carfentanil in the state have increased from three to roughly a dozen in the past month.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will be in Concord Wednesday as part of a multi-state ‘listening session' on the opioid epidemic.

  U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price is heading to New Hampshire to discuss the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.

Gov. Chris Sununu’s office says Price will be in the state Wednesday, but hasn’t provided details on the time or location.

thisweekinraymond.com

In New Hampshire, authorities say that drug cartels are finding creative ways to get drugs on the street — from fake candy wrapping to hidden compartments in vehicles. A DEA agent says that they've found drugs like heroin and cocaine inside canned foods and car parts.

WMUR-TV reports that cartels have been lacing heroin with fentanyl, and are now creating counterfeit prescription pills. Fentanyl has been a leading cause of drug overdoses in the past year, killing nearly 500 in New Hampshire alone.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A new drug that’s 10,000 times stronger than morphine has hit the streets of New Hampshire. And that’s leaving many first responders scrambling to figure out how to deal with and treat this deadly substance.

Paige Sutherland

On Tuesday, public health officials confirmed the first cases of overdose deaths from carfentanil in New Hampshire. Carfentanil is a synthetic opiod and much more potent than the painkiller fentanyl. It can be mixed with heroin with deadly results. It can also be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled, posing a risk to first responders and health workers. 

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Public health officials announced Tuesday that for the first time in New Hampshire, the synthetic opioid carfentanil was found in the blood of three residents who died from overdoses. The drug is approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl, and is commonly used as a tranquilizer for large animals, including elephants.

Speaking at a press conference, Governor Chris Sununu said the state’s forensic lab  confirmed the presence of the drug earlier in the day.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Everyone in New Hampshire knows the state is grappling with an opioid crisis. But some advocates are worried we are forgetting about a problem that’s been with us for much longer.

FILE

New Hampshire is getting $3.1 million in federal money to help fight the ongoing opioid crisis.

Money that Congress approved last year to help states combat the opioid epidemic is headed to New Hampshire.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen says $485 million in grants will soon be administered to states. The money is part of the 21st Century Cures Act that was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

jenn2d2 via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/E4SDFW

On today's show:

TSCELEB NEWS / FLICKR/CC

A statewide drug enforcement program known as “Granite Hammer” is getting some pushback from lawmakers who argue it isn’t working.

The program, which began in Manchester in 2015,  is designed to get drug dealers off the streets.

Nashua Department of Public Health and Community Services

Nashua’s Health Department wants you to stop using the word “addict.”

“We need to talk about substance use disorder like the disease that it is,” health educator Aly McKnight told a captive audience of thirty or so in the basement of Nashua Public Library last month.  She pointed to a list of “stigmatizing” words projected onto a screen. “Alcoholic,” “junkie,” even “addiction” should be avoided, it said. 

Jason Moon for NHPR

During a swing through the Seacoast Friday morning, Governor Chris Sununu stopped by the local Opioid Task Force in Dover.

Reflecting on the crisis, he said the state could be doing better with drug prevention programs for kids in school.

“To be blunt, when the 65 year old gray-haired comes in to a bunch of 5th and 6th graders, or even high schoolers…’just say no’. That message ain’t cutting it. No one is listening to that,” said Sununu.

Sununu said the state Department of Education should start playing a role in developing better programs.

Jack Rodolico

Hannah Berkowitz is 20 years old and when she was a senior in high school her life flew off the rails. 

She was abusing drugs. She was suicidal. Berkowitz moved into a therapeutic boarding school to get sober. But she could only stay sober while she was on campus during the week.

NH's Opioid Crisis at a Crossroad

Apr 5, 2017

Few states have been as hard hit by the opioid epidemic as New Hampshire, where more than 1,600 Granite Staters have died of drug overdose since 2012. After several years battling the epidemic, some on the front lines of addiction are pointing to hopeful signs, even while urging vigilance and more investment in treatment and prevention. We take a look at what's working, what's not, and why some are raising alarms about an old scourge: alcohol. 


Flickr

New Hampshire's child protection agency is responding to the state's drug crisis with new policies requiring greater intervention when infants and toddlers are at risk.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu told the state’s Commission on Alcohol and Drugs Friday that workforce development and cutting regulation are key in addressing New Hampshire’s opioid crisis.

This is the first time Sununu has attended one of these meetings since taking office.

NHPR Staff

  A bill making it easier for people seeking treatment for a substance abuse problem unanimously cleared the New Hampshire Senate Wednesday.

Jack Rodolico

Gordon MacDonald is a step closer to becoming New Hampshire’s next Attorney General. On Tuesday, he met with the Executive Council to discuss his nomination by Governor Chris Sununu.

MacDonald is an experienced lawyer. Some of his highest profile cases have been battling the State of New Hampshire - and the very office he now seeks to lead.  

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