January 1st, 2018

N.H. seeks funding for opioid crisis

New Hampshire needs help. That is the message put out by US Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in a recent release decrying the Trump administration’s decision not to increase funding for the state’s battle against the opioid crisis.

While the problem has reached every state in the country, New Hampshire has been especially hard hit. With the second highest death rate from opioid overdose in the nation, New Hampshire has seen deaths more than double since 2011.

“We are second in the nation per capita from opioid related deaths, but actually number one for fentanyl related deaths,” said Cynthia Whitaker, Psy.D., MLADC, an alcohol and drug counselor and member-at-large of the New Hampshire Psychological Association board of directors.

“The fentanyl coming into the state is related to a lot of the spikes in deaths we are seeing.”

The introduction of fentanyl into the drug pipeline, along with New Hampshire’s more rural areas and a predilection for over-prescribing medical opioids have been identified by some as the reason the state has taken such a hard hit.

“We don’t have a lot of funding here in New Hampshire and that, along with the rural context and other things like overuse of prescription meds has led to a perfect storm of a crisis,” said Whitaker.

The state is too focused on acute care for drug addiction treatment rather than creating a system to help addicts throughout the recovery process, she added. This may be a result of the lack of funding directed toward the crisis.

Despite the president’s comments over the summer about New Hampshire being a “drug-infested den,” the administration announced in late October that it would not revise the formula for determining Opioid State Targeted Response grants.

The funding will continue to be determined according to a state’s population rather than taking into account the death rates.

“Senator Hassan has long said that the funding formula used to allocate funding is flawed,” said Ricki Eshman, Senator Hassan’s press secretary, “and that funding must be distributed based on the rates of people dying from drug overdoses instead of just favoring the biggest states.”

In November, Senators Shaheen and Hassan, along with Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and senators from Delaware, Missouri and Rhode Island have introduced a bill aimed at changing the way that the federal government distributes funding so that states like New Hampshire and West Virginia would have higher priority because of having the highest mortality rates in the country.

The bill would require that mortality rates and lack of access to treatment and services are taken into account when the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration allocates grants to states. The bill would take effect during the 2018 fiscal year.

“While such a commonsense change to the funding formula should not require legislation,” said Eshman, “Senators Hassan and Shaheen, and others, introduced the bipartisan Targeted Opioid Formula Act to change the formula so that states hardest-hit by this epidemic receive the resources they need.”

By Catherine Robertson Souter

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