Series: New Hampshire's Opioid Crisis

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A proposal to spend more state money to fight drug trafficking on New Hampshire’s highways unanimously cleared the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday. But estimating how much that effort will cost – is no simple task. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu wants lawmakers to fast-track a bill to hire five new state troopers to focus on cutting off the drug supply from out of state. That's on top of the ten additional troopers Sununu proposed in his state spending plan last month

This measure went before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday afternoon.

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: March 10, 2017

Mar 9, 2017

The N.H. legislature had a full calendar this week, debating changes to the state’s election laws, transgender rights and marijuana decriminalization.  N.H.'s congressional delegation reacts to President Trump's revised travel ban, and assesses the impact in  N.H, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes a surprise visit to an N.H. youth summit on opioid abuse.


Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A bill adding opioid addiction to the state’s policy on mandated treatment received broad support at a public hearing Tuesday.

Nearly 40 other states have similar policies on the books.

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Thousands of New Hampshire middle and high school students gathered in Manchester Tuesday for the state’s first-ever Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness.

Throughout the roughly three-hour summit, the message of prevention and social responsibility was not only directed at students but also geared for them too. 

Allison Quantz for NHPR

Following the introduction of new prescribing guidelines, surgeons at Dartmouth-Hitchcock are reducing the number of opioids they give patients after undergoing certain minor procedures.

Doctors say the initiative is an important step in reducing the number of painkillers available as the state reels from an ongoing opioid epidemic.

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The public will get the chance to weigh in on a bill  Tuesday that would allow people battling an opioid addiction to be mandated to seek treatment.

About 40 states including Massachusetts have similar laws already in place.

FILE

When President Barack Obama signed the “21st Century Cures Act” into law last year, New Hampshire officials anticipated getting $10 million over the next biennium. That number has dropped to $6 million.

Tym Rurke, who chairs the Governor’s Commission on Drugs and Alcohol, says although the funding was supposed to be based on per capita overdose deaths – that wasn’t the case.

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The New Hampshire Insurance Department released the findings of a study Thursday that takes a look at how insurance companies are handling drug and alcohol abuse treatment claims.

The study, which examines the insurers Cigna, Anthem, and Harvard Pilgrim, was intended, in part, to determine if they were complying with federal parity law. In other words, do the companies provide comparable coverage for mental health, substance use disorders, and medical and surgical care?

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

For the past year, state and county prosecutors in New Hampshire have started enforcing a decades-old law that allows them to seek tougher penalties for drug dealers who sell lethal doses.

So far, the policy has led to a handful of convictions, with sentences ranging from a few years to 20 years in prison.

But critics warn this strategy will have little effect on the state’s epidemic of drug abuse.

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Governor Chris Sununu has created a new position in his office to help shape drug prevention, treatment and recovery policy.

NHPR/Hannah McCarthy

Gov. Chris Sununu helped to announce a new partnership on Wednesday aimed at reducing the stigma of addiction.   

Speak Up New Hampshire is the latest campaign from the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Hampshire. Joined by the Bureau for Drug and Alcohol Services, the Governor’s Commission, and various addiction treatment and prevention organizations, the Partnership is now concentrating on reducing the stigma of addiction in the Granite State.

NHPR Staff

Governor Chris Sununu delivers his budget proposal to lawmakers this week. It’s the first step in a months-long journey to build a two-year spending plan that will affect nearly every aspect of life in New Hampshire.

To help you prepare for the months of headlines to come, NHPR reporters are highlighting areas of the budget that are likely to generate the most discussion.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Manchester’s public health director says based on last year’s numbers, the city’s drug problem is still serious but efforts to address it are working.

Who Should Have Access To Medical Marijuana?

Feb 8, 2017
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Several bills in the New Hampshire legislature would extend the list of qualifying conditions for therapeutic cannabis, including chronic pain and PTSD. But a new report from the National Academy of Sciences finds that "cannabis has both therapeutic value and public health risks."


Paige Sutherland/NHPR

New Hampshire’s alcohol fund, which takes a small portion of state liquor sale revenues and puts it towards substance abuse prevention and treatment, has only been fully funded once since it was created in 2000. 

But one Keene lawmaker wants to change that.

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A legislative committee has approved a bill that would exempt veterinarians from having to check the prescription drug monitoring program on the pets and their owners. Veterinarians support the exemption, but those who say they should check the PDMP argue that drug users could target animal hospitals as a source of drugs. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Since last May, the Manchester Fire Department's Safe Station program has helped more than 1,000 people take the first step toward recovery from drug and alcohol abuse.

But while the first-of-its-kind program is being hailed as a lifesaver in the state's largest city, bringing Safe Station to other parts of the state may prove difficult: it requires treatment centers and other resources that most New Hampshire communities simply don’t have.    

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Following promises made during the campaign, Republicans are taking steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act. What will replace the health care law, and which provisions will be spared, is still very much a question in Washington. In New Hampshire, that’s causing unease for many in the substance abuse treatment community.

Jack Rodolico

Catholic Medical Center in Manchester is your typical general hospital: they deliver babies, set broken bones, perform heart surgery. And it might be as good a place as any to witness how the opioid epidemic is transforming healthcare in New Hampshire.

For over a year, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has been trying to determine whether drug makers break the law in how they marketed opioid painkillers in the state. It’s a slow legal battle that could determine that pharmaceutical companies knew they were putting people at risk by overselling highly addictive painkillers. Many of those painkillers were abused – leading to an addiction and overdose epidemic.

There’s been a new development in that story, and NHPR’s Jack Rodolico sat down with Morning Edition to talk about it.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Updated on Jan. 13, 2017 at 5:07 PM:

Visiting hours will return to normal on Saturday at the state prison for men. Inmate visits were halted earlier this week after a series of likely drug overdoses left one man dead.

In the meantime, the department says it is investigating the type, source, and entry point of the drugs that caused the following three incidents.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

New Hampshire lawmakers are close to approving a federal grant to help the state Medical Examiners Office deal with a backlog of autopsies, mostly due to drug overdose deaths. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

One New Hampshire lawmaker wants to add a new charge to the state’s criminal code: Under his proposal, someone who provides another person with a lethal dose of heroin or fentanyl would be charged with manslaughter

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The opioid epidemic profoundly affects families, communities, law enforcement and puts doctors and hospital staff on the front lines of addiction. Today, a physician and ethicist makes a radical suggestion - let addicts shoot up in the hospital.

Then, for most people who sustain traumatic injuries from bullets or car crashes death occurs within an hour. Now, what seems like a miracle cure is freighted with questions of consent, ethics and racism in a country with a sordid history of medical experiments on African Americans.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Police in southern New Hampshire are reporting an increase in overdose deaths since Christmas Eve.

The Salem Police Department says it has responded to five overdoses since Dec. 24, a higher number than normal. Two of the overdoses were fatal. The victims, found in two separate incidents, were a 24-year-old female and a 31-year-old male. The police have not released their names.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

New Hampshire Public Radio has spent two years exploring the opioid crisis, examining everything from how it began to how state officials and the treatment community have responded. In that time, nearly 1,000 Granite Staters have died from drug overdoses — and many, many more have struggled with addiction.

We want to continue our reporting on this important issue in the year ahead, and we need your help. We want to hear how heroin and opioid use has affected your life, whether you've personally experienced addiction or whether you've dealt with the issue secondhand — as a friend, family member, treatment provider or otherwise.

Our hope is that by listening to people who've been touched by the epidemic, we'll better understand the disease of addiction and its impact on our community. 

A bill in the New Hampshire legislature could make it legal to hospitalize someone against their will because of a drug addiction. The bill would amend the state law that allows authorities to involuntarily commit people suffering from a serious mental illness who pose a threat to themselves.

Republic Senator Jeb Bradley says he proposed the bill after he spoke with the family of someone who died of an overdose.

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: December 23, 2016

Dec 22, 2016

It’s our year-end review of the top 2016 news stories in New Hampshire, from politics to precipitation. It was a year in which PFOA. became a household term in many communities, the First In the Nation presidential primary seemed to last forever, and fentanyl made its mark, causing a steep increase in overdose deaths.  We'll also discuss this week's alarming report on the state's child protective services agency.


Weekly N.H. News Roundup: December 16, 2016

Dec 15, 2016

Join us for the top Granite State headlines this week, including N.H. political races caught up in revelations about Russian hacking.  Another grim record set as drug deaths in the state reach nearly 400.  And the state seeks to have a suit against DCYF dismissed in a child abuse case.

GUESTS:

  • Casey McDermott, NHPR digital reporter.
  • Ella Nilsen, Concord Monitor reporter.
  • Dave Solomon, Union Leader reporter.

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