December 1st, 2012

N.H. strives to combat drug, alcohol problems among young people

While the state of New Hampshire ranks high in many health and wellness related indexes, that’s not the case when it comes to drug and alcohol use and abuse. In fact, according to a 2008-9 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, New Hampshire ranked highest for alcohol use in those 12 and older and for those ages 18-25. The state was second highest in the U.S. for non-medical use of pain relievers among 18 to 25-year-olds and has seen an increase in drug related deaths, which claimed more lives in 2010 (174) than did motor vehicle accidents.

Because past efforts at addressing substance abuse problems were sporadic and localized, the N.H. Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services (BDAS) of the Department of Health and Human Services has put together a concerted plan to deal with these issues across the state. Through a 2005 federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the state moved to integrate all existing prevention services into 10 regional networks. Each network was tasked with determining priorities and creating a plan to decrease the use of non-medical prescription drugs, marijuana and alcohol, especially for younger people.

In October, the BDAS received approval for a secondary SAMHSA grant of $3.6 million over the course of three years. This grant will be used to enact the plans created by the Regional Networks. Since state funding for prevention programs was cut in the 2012-2013 state budget, grant money will help to continue the state’s plans to combat the prevalent drug and alcohol problems.

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity this grant will provide to our state,” said BDAS Director Joe Harding. “This will help us to continue to build on the prevention efforts we have started here in our state. This grant will allow us to continue building our system and direct our prevention efforts to those at greatest risk in areas of our state with the greatest need.”

The program looks to provide a more equitable distribution of resources, to pinpoint areas where assistance is most needed.

“We have identified higher need communities,” says Valerie Morgan, administrator for the BDAS Prevention Services Unit. “These communities will be targeted to do more direct preventative efforts.”

The money will be put out to bid later this year or early next year for agencies to provide the needed services both during the term of the grant and for the foreseeable future.

“We are also asking them to include a sustainability plan to sustain their efforts,” says Morgan, pointing out that by the time the grant money is awarded, agencies will only have about 2.6 years left on the grant term.

By Catherine Robertson Souter

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