July 09. 2018 10:54PM

On heels of audit, a contract vote for two agencies on opiod battle's front lines

By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader


CONCORD — The Executive Council is being asked to approve more than $1 million in retroactive contracts for two agencies on the front lines of the opioid battle, just days after the release of a critical state audit of the same agencies.

According to state officials, “Contract monitoring language has been added to address the audit findings” regarding the operations of Harbors Homes and the Greater Nashua Council on Alcoholism, which runs the Keystone Hall recovery center.

Recently completed site reviews by state officials of the two Nashua-based organizations resulted in multiple recommendations for improvement if the agencies expect to continue to receive state contracts.

Among other things, reviewers found that in some cases the nonprofits were unable to provide backup documentation for charges to the state; did not adequately document client progress or lack of progress; did not maintain adequate personnel files; and did not have adequate training or personnel policies.

The requests for funding are retroactive, according to DHHS officials, because the agency wanted the councilors to have time to review the audit reports issued last week, and to allow time for the new contract language to be added.

The contracts to be voted on Wednesday include:

• $500,000 for Greater Nashua Council on Alcoholism to provide addiction services to low-income pregnant or parenting women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless between now and June 30, 2019.

• $300,000 for the Greater Nashua Council on Alcoholism to continue to provide a statewide crisis line for substance use disorder through Dec. 31, 2018. The GNCA crisis hotline responds to an average 270 calls per month, according to state officials.

• $150,000 to Harbor Homes for substance use disorder crisis respite shelter, increasing the contract from $300,000 to an amount not to exceed $450,000, to June 30, 2019.

• $244,391 to Harbor Homes, increasing an existing contract from $4.6 million to $4.8 million to open two new recovery community centers between now and June 30, 2019.

If approved, the funding will enable Harbor Homes to open a recovery community center in Claremont and in at least one other community, most likely in or around Concord, where HOPE for New Hampshire Recovery has had to close centers recently.

“Should the Governor and Executive Council not authorize this request, the department’s overall strategy to address the disease of addiction to alcohol and drugs may be negatively impacted, with fewer individuals gaining and maintaining recovery,” according to the request for funding from Katja S. Fox, director of the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services.

Peter Kelleher serves as CEO of Partnership for Successful Living, the umbrella organization that operates both GNCA and Harbor Homes.

“We take the recommendations of the audit team very seriously, and definitely recognize there is room for improvement,” he said. “We are sorry this has happened in the first place and want to work closely with the state in addressing all the concerns that remain. We have hired a compliance officer and other folks to really dive into this and try to rectify it very quickly.”

In February, Harbor Homes announced it was operating under a projected $400,000 deficit.

The state audit of recovery agencies comes as the DHHS prepares to submit new rules for licensing addiction services.

While other agency executives are protesting the new rules, Kelleher is not among them.

“I didn’t see anything in it that was too problematic for us,” he said.

dsolomon@unionleader.com