Van Ostern on drug crisis: Plans to 'attack the problem, not the people with the problem'
Colin Van Ostern said his plan to combat the heroin and opioid crisis will “attack the problem, not the people with the problem.”
The Democratic candidate for governor, in releasing his plan Thursday, invited a Keene State College student in recovery from heroin and alcohol addiction to share her story to drive that point home.
“I personally know the struggles,” said Natassia Diffendale. “For somebody to get into recovery, it’s not always the easiest thing in the world.”
Finding treatment services was particularly challenging, she said in a conference call with Van Ostern and Keene Mayor Kendall Lane and Concord Mayor Jim Bouley.
Van Ostern proposed a four-point plan to boost resources, expand prevention measures, remove barriers to treatment, and support recovery programs, such as peer-to-peer support and help for recovering addicts to find work.
He wants to permanently extend Medicaid expansion as a foundation for the plan, and fully fund the state’s Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention Fund.
The plan calls for continued support of drug courts statewide, treatment-based alternative sentencing, anti-drug and prevention curriculum in public schools, expanding the substance abuse and mental health treatment workforce, and support for programs like “Granite Hammer,” to help law enforcement crack down on drug trafficking.
Bouley said prevention and treatment are key to any response plan because, “We can’t arrest our way out of it.”
Van Ostern said the heroin and opioid epidemic is one of the biggest problems facing the state.
“We have to work together to overcome it,” he said. “We need to treat this like a public health crisis it is.”