State senators urged to provide funds for alcohol, drug treatment
CONCORD - Alcohol and drug abuse prevention advocates have come up with a unique way to reach out directly to their state senators to ask for more funding for treatment and prevention programs.
Each state senator has begun receiving video postcards created by the Concord non-profit New Futures in coordination with Media Power Youth, a Manchester-based non-profit that encourages young people to lead "healthy, safe lives through smart use of media." The videos can be viewed at YouTube.com/NewFuturesNHMedia.
In 2001, the Legislature established the Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Treatment Fund, which was meant to steadily fund alcohol and drug prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services. Administered by the Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment, the fund, by statute, is supposed to be fully paid for by 5 percent of the gross profits of the State Liquor Commission.
But since 2003, the account has never been fully funded as lawmakers have suspended the law to pay for other perceived priorities.
In the fiscal 2012-2013 budget, which is in effect through June 30, only $3.2 million was allocated for the two years combined, far short of the $18.3 million that would have been allocated had the formula been fully funded with 5 percent of gross liquor commission sales.
The fiscal 2014-2015 budget proposed by Gov. Maggie Hassan and the plan later passed by the House keeps funding level at the fiscal 2013 mark of $1.5 million a year.
That's enough money only to address bare bones treatment programs, while ignoring broader treatment and prevention programs, said Linda Saunders Paquette, executive director of New Futures. She said even an additional $1.2 million a year would fund key prevention services.
"I know for a fact that treatment works," said Manchester small business owner Douglas Boisvert, who sent a video to his senator, Democrat Lou D'Allesandro. "Treatment provides hope. I was one of the lucky ones. When I needed treatment it was there. It's not there anymore."
"I do not believe there is any family that's not affected on some level" by alcohol or drug abuse, said Susan McKeown of Child Health Services, a 40-year pediatric nurse practitioner, who sent a video postcard to Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett.
"As a certified prevention specialist, I'm appalled the prevention funds were cut in the last budget," she said. "It's time to use a small percentage of our profit from the sale of alcohol" for abuse treatment and prevention.
Saunders Paquette said about 113,000 Granite Staters are in need of services for "substance misuse," but the current level of services is reaching only about 6,000.
"We know what happens to people who don't get these services," she said. "They end up in prisons, jails, hospitals, and they end up costing our businesses lost productivity.
She said excessive consumption of alcohol alone costs the state $1.15 billion a year.
"Funding of these services is critical to the health of New Hampshire citizens and to the health of our economy," she said. She said the state has among the highest rates of youth alcohol and drug use in the country.
Saunders Paquette said the senators have begun receiving 125 video postcards from Granite Staters who have been helped by treatment programs or are working in substance abuse prevention and treatment.
She said she believes Hassan and the House "recognize that substance abuse is a serious problem" and noted Hassan supported the creation of a substance abuse Medicaid benefit and backs Medicaid expansion.
Both, she said, "would increase access to treatment for many, many New Hampshire citizens.
"We were disappointed not to see prevention dollars in the governor's budget or the House budget, but we're encouraged that the Senate may think differently and restore prevention funding in its budget," Saunders Paquette said.
Governor's commission chairman Tym Rourke said, "The only state in this country where you are less likely to get treatment if you need it is Texas. New Hampshire is first in the nation for youth misuse of alcohol.
"This is a problem that it is no longer in the state's economic best interest to avoid," he said.
Rourke said the current funding level of $1.5 million is a 55 percent reduction from the prior budget, which, he said, "eliminated all of the substance abuse prevention contacts funded by the state and governor's commission, leaving a minimum of treatment contacts available to treat the neediest of New Hampshire's addicted population."
As a result, he said, there are waiting lists and "untreated addiction.
"There is a simple solution - fund the alcohol fund," Rourke said.
Rona Zlokower of Media Power Youth said, "Here is an example of a collaboration where (we) have helped youth use digital media, which increasingly is their medium for communication, to use it in a pro-social way. These voices and images will hopefully send a very strong and powerful message about the need for substance abuse prevention and treatment."