Series: New Hampshire's Opioid Crisis

New Hampshire Senate
Allegra Boverman / NHPR

New Hampshire child protection officials would have more power to intervene when a parent is abusing drugs or a child is born drug dependent under a bill adopted by the state’s senate. The bill passed unanimously but not without debate.

The bill defines opioid abuse or dependence by a parent as neglect under New Hampshire's Child Protection Act. Right now that law doesn't identify specific conduct by parents as being sufficient to trigger neglect proceedings.

  New Hampshire US Senator Kelly Ayotte is using this week's Republican response to President Obama to highlight the opioid crisis. 

Addressing N.H.'s Addiction Counselor Shortage

Mar 1, 2016
Phoenix House Academy of Dublin / Flickr/CC

As overdose deaths skyrocket,  there's been a statewide call for more access to drug treatment, and more funding for it.  But treatment centers are scrambling to find and keep enough trained staff to meet the demand.  Chronic issues, such as low pay and bureaucracy add to the burden of helping a patient through recovery.

At least three people have died from drug overdoses so far this year in New Hampshire, but the state medical examiner's office is awaiting toxicology results on another 60 cases that have come into its lab this year.

According to the most recent data, at least 420 people died from drug overdoses in 2015 — that figure is more than double what it was two years ago.

A new Massachusetts law criminalizing the trafficking of fentanyl is taking effect.

The law creates the crime of trafficking in fentanyl for amounts greater than 10 grams with punishment of up to 20 years in state prison. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.

Jack Rodolico

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is trying to figure out if the state's largest insurance companies are covering opioid treatment the way the law requires.

The preliminary findings of the department's ongoing investigation are inconclusive.

Steve Smith via Flickr CC

An initial review of whether New Hampshire insurance companies are appropriately covering substance abuse treatment shows significant differences in how often claims are denied, but experts identified problems with only a handful of cases.

The probe comes as New Hampshire seeks to expand treatment and recovery services amid a growing heroin and opioid crisis. The state insurance department began looking into the issue in November after hearing from complaints from providers and advocates, and officials presented their preliminary findings in Concord on Friday.

Here & Now has reported extensively on the opioid crisis, the increasing numbers of people becoming addicted to prescription pain pills and heroin, and the spike in overdoses. Often drowned out in the conversations about the current epidemic, though, are the experiences and voices of chronic pain patients, many of whom say opioids are the only drugs that help them live with near-constant pain.

Jim Cole/AP

In the months leading up to Tuesday’s primary, nearly every presidential candidate mentioned New Hampshire’s opioid and heroin epidemic while on the stump in the Granite State.

But now that the New Hampshire primary has come and gone - will this issue be forgotten on the campaign trail as candidates' shift focus to other states?

How did the drug issue became a talking point on the 2016 trail?

Flickr

A federal bill that provides money for addiction treatment and drug prevention has passed its first hurdle. Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen co-sponsored the legislation. 

The bill calls for additional dollars for a number of areas including treatment for people battling addiction while in prison, drug prevention efforts in schools, and expanding access to the overdose reversal drug Narcan.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure by a unanimous vote. But how much of the bill’s $70 million would go to New Hampshire is unknown.

As state officials feared, drug overdose deaths rose significantly in New Hampshire last year, to well over 400 cases.

The latest data from the state's medical examiner show that 414 people suffered fatal overdoses in 2015, up from 326 in 2014 and 192 the year before.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday passed three bills aimed at combating the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.

The measures include the creation of a state drug court program, improvements to the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, the addition of more than $2 million to help police combat the drug epidemic, and money to buy 27 additional state police cruisers. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Gov. Maggie Hassan will give her last State of the State address Thursday at 1:30 at the State House.

The two-time Governor will finish up her term in November as she pursues a U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte.

Dirty Bunny via Flickr/CreativeCommons

A bill seeking to legalize needle exchange programs in New Hampshire is getting some pushback from law enforcement. The debate rests on whether to make it legal to have trace amounts of heroin on a needle.

If passed the measure would legalize minute amounts of heroin left on used syringes. The aim, according to sponsor Rep. Joe Hannon, is to make sure those seeking to exchange dirty needles for clean ones can do so without fearing arrest.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

As New Hampshire tries to address an epidemic of opiate abuse, leaders in the state often focus on increasing the number of treatment beds and programs. But many in the state say staffing those programs may be much harder than building them.

Addiction treatment programs have been facing staffing shortages across the country for many years. In New Hampshire, things are particularly bad.  


Courtesy of the U.S. Senate

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard joined New Hampshire's two U.S. Senators in Washington Wednesday to testify on a bill aimed at combating the heroin epidemic.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Lawmakers worked out the kinks Tuesday morning on a bill aimed to connect those who receive the overdose reversal drug Narcan with a recovery coach.

If passed this measure would require hospital emergency departments throughout the state to refer such patients to a trained mentor who can speak with the patient and link him or her to treatment.

The bill, however, does not require hospitals to hire any new employees.

Melissa Crews of Hope for New Hampshire Recovery told lawmakers having patients meet with someone immediately after an overdose is key.

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The first addiction recovery center in Manchester is one step closer to opening. That's after the city’s planning board has approved a permit request to turn the former Hoitt Furniture Building into a 24/7 one-stop treatment facility.

thisweekinraymond.com

Manchester's chief of police is set to testify this week on Capitol Hill about New Hampshire's opioid epidemic.   

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Just two weeks into the new legislative session, Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed into law two bills aimed at tackling the state’s opioid epidemic.

The fast tracked bills came out of the state’s legislative drug task force that was crafted during last year’s special session. In 2015 more than 400 people died of a drug overdose.

File Photo

The 72-acre, sprawling campus of Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center - with about a dozen buildings overlooking lakes and mountains - has always been used as a place to treat people with brain injuries or developmental disabilities. But there has always been controversy too.

    

In 1992 the FBI raided the site when they suspected the original owners of fraud. And then last year, after the Disability Rights Center put out a scathing report on Lakeview’s practices, the state shut it down. The place was notorious for poor care. But Eric Spofford hopes to change all that.

The bills considered high priority by New Hampshire's legislative drug task force, which is designed to address the state’s opioid crisis, passed the N.H. House with ease Wednesday afternoon.  

After getting through the Senate last week, these bills will now head to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who will sign them into law Thursday.

State Drug Czar Will Resign

Jan 15, 2016
Josh Rogers/NHPR

Jack Wozmak says with the legislature presently focused on the opioid crisis, now is a good time for him to step down as the state's so-called "drug czar." (Click here to read his resignation letter.) 

Addicted to prescription painkillers after a high-school sports injury, Cameron Burke moved on to heroin, which was cheaper and more easily accessible. His parents tried everything, more than once sending him out of state for treatment.

"It was never enough," Jennifer Weiss-Burke of Albuquerque, N.M., told a local TV reporter last year. "Thirty days here, 30 days there, maybe detox for five days. It was never long-term, and that's what he needed. Recovery from heroin addiction requires long-term treatment."

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Legislative leaders on both sides are cheering the Senate’s passage of three bills meant to address the state’s heroin and opioid crisis.

 Less than a week after the legislative session opened, a trio of bills meant to address the state’s heroin crisis is heading for vote before the state Senate this Thursday.

The bills were vetted as part of a special task force that convened at the end of last year to focus specifically on issues related to the state's heroin and opioid crisis.

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

In Manchester this past year, more than 540 dirty syringes have been found. But as heroin use increases across the state, used needles are also showing up in cities like Nashua, Dover and Laconia.

As part of our series, Dangerous Ends, we look at one bill seeking to legalize needle exchange programs in New Hampshire – a proposal that has been controversial in the state.

New Hampshire saw at least 385 drug deaths in 2015, according to the latest tally from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner — but the actual total could be even higher, as some 45 cases are still pending toxicology.

Citing concern about illegal drug use, the Berlin school board will be making the anti-overdose drug Narcan available in its schools.

Almost six percent of Berlin high school students admitted trying heroin at least once, according to a 2013 student survey prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says Corinne Cascadden, the superintendent of the Berlin schools.

This Is How Heroin Hijacks Your Brain

Jan 11, 2016
Greta Rybus for NPR

When Jack O'Connor was 19, he was so desperate to beat his addictions to alcohol and opioids that he took a really rash step. He joined the Marines.

"This will fix me," O'Connor thought as he went to boot camp. "It better fix me or I'm screwed."

After 13 weeks of sobriety and exercise and discipline, O'Connor completed basic training, but he started using again immediately.

"Same thing," he says. "Percocet, like, off the street. Pills."

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