Series: New Hampshire's Opioid Crisis

Casey McDermott, NHPR

When it comes to fighting the drug crisis, Chris Sununu has said, broadly, that he wants to promote “aggressive” drug prevention education programs and to expand treatment availability for people struggling with addiction.

But this week Sununu called for more aggressive penalties and enforcement when it comes to drug trafficking.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Governor Maggie Hassan signed an executive order Wednesday calling for the creation of the state’s first ever committee designed to analyze drug overdose deaths. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

 Fentanyl continues to be the main culprit behind deadly overdoses in New Hampshire: It’s been linked to 70 percent of drug deaths so far this year, according to the latest data from the state medical examiner.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

This story has been updated with a response from the Trump campaign.

At his rally in Bedford last week, Donald Trump’s prescription for New Hampshire’s drug crisis — a wall at the southern border as a way to stop the flow of drugs into the country — earned plenty of cheers.

That proposal, and his assessment of the state’s drug issues more generally, went over less well with New Hampshire’s leading drug prevention advocacy organization, New Futures.

Appleswitch via Flickr Creative Commons

Three months ago, the Legislature signed off on a bill to expand an anti-drug law enforcement program known as Granite Hammer.

On Wednesday, state officials announced plans to distribute more than a million dollars in grant money to municipalities across New Hampshire. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The effort to end the state’s opioid crisis involves many players: lawmakers, treatment and recovery providers, police and a often overlooked piece…the state’s crime lab.

With drug overdose deaths  rising, the state’s crime lab analysts have their hands full.

Roughly 3,500 drug cases wait to be analyzed at the State Police Crime lab in Concord. Some date as far back as last year.

Jack Seeds via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/f1e2y9

America's opioid crisis has local, state and federal officials scrambling - which is why the DEA decided to ban Kratom, an Asian  plant with an opioid-like effect, as a schedule one drug. But some researchers and users say it could help addicts get kick addictive drugs. Today, crackdown on Kratom - the drug you hadn't heard of until last week.

Plus, walk into a pre-school or elementary school today and you won't find peanut butter, but you'll likely see a few sets of twins ...we'll look at twinning patterns throughout human history, and why the proportion of twins in the population continues to ebb and flow.

New Hampshire’s gubernatorial primary is just a few days away, and the top issue for many voters is how to solve the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.

New Hampshire is one of nearly a dozen states getting a one million dollar federal grant to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for drug addiction.

 New Hampshire currently has the fewest number of physicians in New England who are certified to prescribe Suboxone, a drug used to reduce opioid cravings and ease withdrawals.

Sara Plourde for NHPR

More than 400 people died last year from drug overdoses in New Hampshire and that number is expected to surpass 500 this year.  But as our numbers increase, in many parts of Europe drug overdose deaths are declining.

During a three week fellowship in Germany earlier this summer, NHPR reporter Paige Sutherland decided to dig into Germany’s drug policies—to see what’s different, what’s worked and what New Hampshire might learn as it continues to tackle an opioid crisis.

In a series called “Through the Looking Glass,” every morning this week you’ll hear stories about Germany’s policies, from rooms where addicts can legally use to needle machines in prisons.   

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Advocates, first responders, and local and federal lawmakers say the state has made great strides in combating an opioid crisis, but much more still needs to be done.  At two press conferences in Concord Tuesday, the focus was on efforts at the state and federal levels both past and future.

Jack Rodolico

It’s no secret drugs like OxyContin and hydromorphone are highly addictive.

The real question is this: do drug companies downplay how addictive they are while marketing the medicine to doctors?

New Hampshire’s Attorney General Joe Foster suspects false marketing of legal pills has led to abuse of illicit drugs like heroin. That’s why he subpoenaed the nation’s largest manufacturers of prescription painkillers.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A substance abuse treatment facility in Franklin, Farnum North, has added 42 more inpatient beds. And with help from donations, the center can now start treating patients who lack insurance. 

via UFL.edu

New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program finally got off the ground in April, with the opening of the state’s first cannabis treatment center. Three of the four state-licensed dispensaries are now operating, and more than 1,100 people with serious illnesses are approved to use the drug.

But many, if not most, of the New Hampshire residents who could potentially benefit from medical marijuana won’t be able to legally obtain it.

Hassan, Baker Tout Opioid 'Road Map' For States

Jul 18, 2016
NGA webstream

  Governor Maggie Hassan has joined with governors across the country in a new effort to confront the opioid crisis. 

Heroin
Courtesy of MPD

  US Senator Kelly Ayotte says a bill in Congress to address opioid abuse could provide a big boost to treatment and prevention efforts in New Hampshire. 

Dodgerton Skillhause / Morguefile

Executive Councilors approved two contracts Wednesday that provide the state with more funding to address the opioid crisis.

About $3 million dollars will go into medical training, medication-assisted treatment, and information about substance use disorder.

Councilor Chris Pappas says he thinks these contracts will have an immediate impact in the state’s ability to handle the drug crisis.

“Make sure we get people the treatment they need; make sure that medications are available for people so they can get well and get over their substance use disorder,” he said.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed into law a bill to put state dollars into new and existing drug court programs across New Hampshire.

But for the past four years, Belknap County has been running its own drug court program without any financial help from the county, state or federal government.

They call it recovery court and it’s under the direction of a judge who has placed compassion at the heart of the program.

The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

The bill, which had previously passed the House, will now be sent to President Obama. He has indicated that he will sign it, despite concerns that it doesn't provide enough funding.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Most communities across New Hampshire have been touched by the opioid crisis that’s taken the lives of more than 400 Granite Staters last year, a majority from heroin and fentanyl.

But one place in the Lakes Region stands out not for its significantly high overdose numbers but rather how its community is responding.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Senator Jeanne Shaheen says while passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act this week will be a step in the right direction, it's ultimately a disappointment because it doesn't include the funding needed to address the crisis.

"While it makes some changes in programs so that it expands what we can do under certain programs, it doesn’t include the funding that is so desperately needed," Shaheen told NHPR's Morning Edition.

  The latest numbers from the New Hampshire Office of the Chief Medical Examiner show that at least 161 people have fatally overdosed so far in 2016.

Officials are anticipating that those numbers will continue to rise in the months ahead, and the state is projecting at least 494 overdose deaths by the end of the year. 

Physicians licensed to prescribe a medication that reduces cravings and eases withdrawal for people addicted to heroin and other opioids will now be allowed to treat more patients.

 

Under new rules announced Wednesday by the Obama administration, physicians who prescribe Suboxone can treat 275 patients at a time, up from 100.

 

The Obama administration is making it easier for people addicted to opioids to get treatment.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced new rules Wednesday to loosen restrictions on doctors who treat people addicted to heroin and opioid painkillers with the medication buprenorphine.

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

New Hampshire Congresswoman Annie Kuster has introduced a bill that would put labels on opioids to warn users about the addictive nature of narcotics.

Ollie Atkins / Richard Nixon Presidential Library

When politicians talk about drug abuse, ‘tough on crime’ is a phrase that seems to be going out of style as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that the "War on Drugs" didn’t solve the problem.

Jason Moon for NHPR

Today lawmakers approved a 1.5 million dollar statewide drug enforcement program known as Granite Hammer.

After a lengthy procedural debate in the House over whether to proceed with the special session, members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill. The legislation, based on a Manchester Police Department initiative, would create a grant program to fund drug enforcement efforts at county and local police departments.

Emily Corwin for NHPR

In Nashua on Wednesday, Republican Ted Gatsas announced his plan to fight opiate addiction across the state. In front of city hall, Gatsas told a small gathering of reporters the heroin crisis needs leadership, saying, "My first act as Governor would be to declare this fentanyl heroin epidemic is a public health emergency." 

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

   

All six New England governors say fighting the social stigma associated with addiction is key to battling the opioid crisis raging across the region, claiming thousands of lives.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker participated at the Harvard Medical School forum Tuesday with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Maine Gov. Paul LePage and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.

What it Takes to Overcome Addiction in N.H.

Jun 6, 2016
BFD Lt / flickr/cc

We kick off the Morning Edition series, Hope on the Front Lines, examining the many efforts around the state helping people overcome addiction.  We'll look at the array of approaches available in the state including new medicines that curb drug cravings as well as others that revive overdose victims.  Recovery coaches, counselors and doctors are also involved on the the long road to full recovery. 


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