Series: New Hampshire's Opioid Crisis

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The first addiction recovery center in New Hampshire's capital city is already helping patients after opening its doors Monday morning.  Hope for New Hampshire Recovery offers peer-to-peer support for people battling  addiction.

Jeff Pearson became addicted to heroin more than 30 years ago. Along the way, he racked up 80 drug-related offenses, went to prison five times and made dozens of rehab attempts, including several years standing in line for his daily dose of methadone.

In January, Pearson received a prescription for Suboxone, a medication that suppresses the symptoms of withdrawal. Four months later, he’s still surprised he’s not foraging for drugs every day, like he did for so many years.

What We Know - And Don't Know - About Suboxone

May 4, 2016

Talk to people on the front lines of New Hampshire’s opioid crisis, and most of them will agree that addiction is a chronic disease. Yet there is still resistance to using medication to treat it.

Tym Rourke, who chairs the New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment, says that some substance-abuse programs refuse to use methadone or Suboxone.

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After much debate, the New Hampshire Senate Thursday voted to keep the state’s so-called drug forfeiture fund alive.

Under current law money or assets seized in a criminal drug bust are put into a special fund used to combat future drug crimes. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

CVS Health is the latest pharmacy chain to offer the overdose reversal drug naloxone, known commonly as Narcan, at its stores in New Hampshire. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate today will once again tackle a handful of bills geared at the state’s opioid crisis. Many of the proposals being related to illegal drug use.

A 26-year-old Portsmouth woman was sentenced to serve between eight and 20 years in prison for selling the fatal dose of drugs that caused a Maine man to overdose in 2015.

NH1.com reports Amanda Burgess was sentenced Tuesday after reaching an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to charges of supplying fentanyl with death resulting.

Prosecutors say Burgess sold a $40 dose of the synthetic opiate to 27-year-old Joseph Cahill, who was found dead on June 15, 2015. Burgess, a known heroin dealer, fled New Hampshire after the York, Maine man died.

s_falkow via Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. Attorney Emily Gray Rice and New Hampshire’s Attorney General, Joe Foster, will work together to prosecute drug overdoses as crime scenes. The goal is to charge drug dealers with homicide, when an overdose death can be linked to a drug sale. 

The collaboration will expand resources for state prosecutors and allow New Hampshire drug dealers to be charged under federal law, which has tougher penalties for drug crimes.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Manchester accounted for nearly a quarter of the fatal drug overdoses reported across New Hampshire last year, according to newly released data from the medical examiner’s office.

The state's largest city saw 106 overdoses last year, out of a statewide total of 433.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Last year saw more drug overdose deaths than ever before in New Hampshire.

So far in 2016, the state’s confirmed at least 48 deaths, with another 89 potential cases on top of that — officials are waiting for more toxicology reports to add those into the total.

The death toll, however, only tells part of the story of the opioid crisis in New Hampshire.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire House killed a bill Wednesday to fund a program designed to teach substance abuse prevention in high schools.

HOPE, which stands for Heroin and Opiate Prevention Education, is run by Plymouth State University and offers peer to peer prevention. But not every school in the state participates.

Under the measure, roughly $51,000 would be available to public and charter high schools in the state who want to join the program.

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The New Hampshire House on Wednesday backed a bill calling for an additional $5 million to help combat the state’s current opioid crisis.

Under the measure, $3, million will go to treatment services while $2 million will help to provide housing for those battling an addiction. It also includes money to hire a state attorney to prosecute drug cases.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire House Wednesday backed a measure that would allow the state Division of Children, Youth and Families to investigate parents suspected of having an opioid dependence. 

As written, the bill would exempt parents currently involved in treatment or actively seeking treatment.  

Democrat Skip Berrien of Exeter said this bill would ensure that DCYF can offer services before problems escalate.

Charles Willams / Flickr/CC

Heroin pills. That’s how Andrew Kolodny describes oxycodone, one of the most widely prescribed – and abused – narcotic painkillers in the U.S. 

Kolodny is executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and senior scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He joined The Exchange this week to discuss the opioid crisis – its origins and how states, including New Hampshire, are trying to overcome it.

Prescribing Opioids During an Addiction Epidemic

Apr 14, 2016
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State lawmakers, doctors, and others in the medical profession have been hammering out new guidelines for prescribing these drugs to tackle the issue of over-use and alleviate the addiction crisis. We'll get the latest on this discussion and also find out how New Hampshire's approach compares with other states.

CREDIT GETTY IMAGES

  One of Boston's top hospitals is seeing an increasing number of drug abusers shoot up on its property, a tactic experts say opioid addicts hope will save them from lethal overdoses. 

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/">Mike Cophlan</a>

  Health practitioners across the state say the drug methadone should be available behind bars – especially to patients already on the medication. But jails and prisons in New Hampshire do not offer the drug to recovering addicts, many of whom rely on it to stay sober.    


Peter Biello for NHPR

Thirty-eight-year old James Vara is about to become the state's so-called Drug Czar. For another few weeks, he'll be wrapping up his work as a Senior Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, but when he starts his new position, he'll be taking a leading role in solving a problem that killed more than four hundred people in New Hampshire last year: the state's opiate addiction crisis.

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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.

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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. 

Todd Huffman / Flickr/CC

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. 

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