July 27. 2018 11:38PM

Beyond the Stigma: Twice as much money as expected could come to NH to battle opioid addiction

By SHAWNE K. WICKHAM
New Hampshire Sunday News


Jeffrey Meyers, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, explains Monday the parameters of the federal grant money coming into the state this fall. (Shawne K. Wickham/New Hampshire Union Leader)

Those on the front lines of the battle against opioid addiction were already energized about what nearly $23 million coming to New Hampshire in federal funding could accomplish in that fight.

Now state officials have learned we’re getting twice that amount.

The state Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that the state is actually eligible for $45.8 million in funding over the next two years. DHHS, which will administer the State Opioid Response (SOR) Grant funding from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), had been operating under the understanding that the state could apply for $22.9 million for that two-year period.

But SAMHSA on Thursday clarified that the state can apply for that amount for each of the next two years, DHHS said.

Jake Leon, director of communications for DHHS, said, “This is a great opportunity to expand and complement efforts to bring innovative, evidence-based practices to the state’s response to the opioid crisis.”

And he said the department “commends SAMHSA for the clarification and additional funding.”

Tym Rourke of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, a member and the past chair, of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment, welcomed the news.

“It’s thrilling to see clarity and added commitment from the federal government to bring needed resources to New Hampshire,” he said. “The community needs identified are many, so hopefully this will bring us a step forward in filling even more of our gaps in prevention, treatment and recovery supports.”

DHHS held a hearing in Concord on Monday to solicit public input on how to best spend the new federal funding, and around 100 people turned out, including treatment providers, recovery advocates and family members affected by the deadly epidemic.

Recovery housing, peer support, workforce development, job training, mobile recovery services and transportation were among the solutions cited as critical for those struggling with addiction and recovery. Now it appears the state may be able to fund twice as many services as anticipated.

But while there may be double the money available, the timeline for applying for the funds is just as compressed. New Hampshire officials have until Aug. 13 to submit their proposed plan. They expect to hear from SAMHSA by the end of Sept. 30, and agencies then will have 90 days to start spending the money on services.

Beyond the Stigma, sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, is funded by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, NAMI New Hampshire, and private individuals. Contact reporter Shawne K. Wickham at swickham@unionleader.com.