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Executive Council OKs funds to fight opioid epidemic

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 23. 2016 8:54PM

CONCORD — The Executive Council approved $11.5 million on Wednesday to bolster the state’s response to the opioid addiction crisis.

The contract with the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, within Department of Health and Human Services, is focused on providing substance use treatment and recovery support services.

The new services include a new statewide crisis hotline, withdrawal management support services, medication-assisted treatment and 24/7 crisis services, according to Gov. Maggie Hassan.

More than a dozen organizations will receive funds from the contract. They include Tri-County Community Action Program in Berlin, Manchester Alcoholism Rehabilitation Center in Manchester, Families in Transition in Manchester, Southeastern NH Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services in Dover, and Greater Nashua Council on Alcoholism.

Hassan praised the council for supporting the resources amid the heroin and opioid epidemic.

“I’m encouraged by the work we did today at the council to address the opioid epidemic,” said Hassan, who urged state lawmakers to pass pending legislation to help address the opioid crisis.

In related news, executive councilors also voted to accept 171 Naloxone Kits from Adapt Pharma Limited, at a value of $12,825. The intent is that the Narcan, which is used to reverse a suspected opioid overdose, is distributed to all New Hampshire high schools, including private, parochial and charter schools. It is up to the schools to decide if they want to participate in the voluntary program.

The Narcan intranasal spray devices are at no cost to schools. Nurses in participating schools would be given instruction on usage starting in April, according to the Department of Education.

Smarter Balanced assessment

The council also approved a contract renewal with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for statewide student testing, though Councilor Chris Sununu said the council’s support does not mean endorsement of the consortium’s testing.

The state’s “hands are tied,” in that the approximately $603,000 contract renewal, retroactive to July 1, 2015 through June 30 of this year, is so New Hampshire won’t lose funding, according to Sununu.

“Parents and teachers across the state have raised serious questions about Smarter Balanced testing and Common Core standards, and whether this is the right path for New Hampshire,” Sununu said in a statement after the meeting. “Yet by bringing the contract before the Executive Council seven months late, the state has been put in a position of having to accept these tests and standards or risk losing over $250 million in federal funding.”

Sununu said it was a failure of the administration — a not-so-indirect shot at Gov. Hassan, who sat directly across the table from him.

“This is yet another example of the federal government forcing their priorities onto states by threatening to withhold funding from anyone who does not toe the line,” Sununu said. “This is a failure of leadership at both the national and state level, and I am committed to restoring local control to New Hampshire schools and providing assessments and standards that are aligned with the interests of New Hampshire, not Washington, D.C., bureaucrats.”

Hassan, following the meeting, said that New Hampshire is leading the country in finding alternatives to the Smarter Balanced tests. She said the state is working to ensure accountability and performance are properly and accurately measured.

“I think that it’s clear that Councilor Sununu has a very ideological position about education,” Hassan said. “What we’ve been doing in New Hampshire with stakeholder groups across the state, including educators, businesses, families and parents, is working to make sure we are preparing young people for the changing and evolving 21st century economy.”

Sununu is a Republican candidate for governor. Hassan, a Democrat, is challenging U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, for Senate this year.

Before convening the meeting, Hassan adminstered the oath of office for state Rep. Mike Edgar, D-Hampton, who won a special election to fill a vacancy earlier this month.

In other business Wednesday, the council:

• Approved a $10.4 million increase in construction costs and management for the proposed new women’s prison in Concord.

• Reappointed Glenn D. Normandeau of Portsmouth as executive director of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, at a salary of $106,824.64.

• Reappointed Victoria Cimino of Manchester as director of the Division of Travel and Tourism at the Department of Resources and Economic Development, at a salary of $93,229.76.

• Reappointed Tina L. Nadeau of Lee as Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court.

• Confirmed Kimberly M. MacKay of Concord to succeed Joseph Diament as director of Community Corrections at the state Department of Corrections, at a salary of $93,229.76.

• Confirmed Jennifer Logsdon of Manchester to the Juvenile Parole Board.

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