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Beyond the Stigma: New Hampshire to apply for millions in fight against opioid addiction


July 10. 2018 8:14PM
Nina Levancic from Fusion Health Services, foreground, jots down ideas for how to best spend nearly $23 million in federal grant funding coming to New Hampshire to address the opioid epidemic. Jenny O'Higgins, second from left, substance use disorder continuum of care facilitator at Makin' It Happen in Manchester, asked members of an SUD collaborative to make suggestions during its monthly meeting, held Tuesday at Manchester Health Department. (Shawne K. Wickham/Union Leader)



CONCORD — New Hampshire is in line for millions in federal funds to fight the opioid crisis, and the state is looking for public input on how to spend the money.

The Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday issued an appeal for public input on its application to the federal government for the State Opioid Response Grant approved by Congress.

New Hampshire is eligible for nearly $23 million to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and reduce opioid overdose deaths by providing prevention, treatment and recovery activities.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to apply for this additional funding as we continue to combat the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey A. Meyers. “We look forward to working with our community partners to enhance and expand evidence-based programs and services to continue to focus on meeting the critical needs of those struggling with addiction.”

There are two ways to comment.

DHHS will hold a public input session on Monday, July 23, at the DHHS Brown Building Auditorium, 129 Pleasant St., Concord, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Due to limited seating, reservations are required by email at PublicInformationOffice@dhhs.nh.gov.

Written comments can be emailed to sor@dhhs.nh.gov by Friday, July 27.

The state is required to submit its final application to federal agencies no later than Aug. 13.

Ideas for how to spend the money were the dominant topic at a meeting on Tuesday of a Manchester collaborative that meets monthly to discuss solutions to the city’s substance use disorder (SUD) challenges. And housing and programs focusing on youths topped the list.

Jennifer O’Higgins, SUD continuum of care facilitator at Makin’ It Happen, asked members of the group to list their four top priorities for funding on index cards. Then she asked them to toss the cards away, one by one, until each individual held just one card. Because that’s what happens with federal funding, she said; many worthy programs don’t make the cut.

Peter Janelle, executive director of the Network for Health, said supportive housing for those in recovery topped his wish list: “Affordable housing, safe housing, sober housing.

“We have put off addressing this too long,” he said. “It’s so foundational to everything else.”

Kelly Riley, community outreach coordinator for Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, said she’d like to see the state create a scholarship fund to support individuals in sober living. “You’re living sober; you’re resting your head,” she said. “It’s not a clinical environment; it’s where you live.”

O’Higgins said these kinds of federal grants often stress evidence-based programs. But she said she’d like to see some of the funding also go to innovative approaches.

And she told the group the time is now to weigh in on what Manchester needs. Just as New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation successfully pushed for federal money for the opioid crisis to be allocated not by state population but by greatest need, the state should allocate resources to the areas hardest hit by the crisis, she said.

“This city is the epicenter of the issue in New Hampshire and we need more funding to come to the city,” she said. “So we need to know what we’re asking for.”

• For more information about the grant, including details on submitting public comment and the funding announcement, visit dhhs.nh.gov/dcbcs/bdas/sor.htm.

Shawne K. Wickham contributed to this report.


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