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Construction begins on Friendship House expansion in Bethlehem

By JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent

October 02. 2017 8:28PM
The Friendship House, a drug treatment facility in Bethlehem, is moving forward with an expansion plan. (John Koziol)



BETHLEHEM — Thanks to multiple partners and an anonymous donation that covered nearly half the $5.4 million cost, ground was broken Friday for the new, expanded Friendship House, the only residential substance-abuse treatment center in the North Country.

The expansion entails the construction of a three-story, 18,500-square-foot building that will increase the Friendship House’s number of treatment beds from 18 to 32 and also include a four-bed medical detoxification unit.

Several years in the planning, the expansion was nearly derailed earlier this year when President Donald Trump proposed a federal budget that would have made cuts or eliminated both the Community Development Block Grant program and the Northern Border Regional Commission grant program.

At that time, the CDBG program had committed $500,000 and the NBRC program $60,500 to the expansion. The funds ultimately came through, in part because of Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, both of whom attended the ground-breaking for the expansion.

The senators were among nearly a dozen speakers, including Doris Enman and Marty Boldin, both of whom are in long-term recovery.

As a client of the Friendship House, “I never envisioned I’d be standing here,” said Enman, who since went on to earn a master’s degree and is now director of the North Country Serenity Center.

“To be able to access treatment right in our backyard” is a wonderful thing, said Enman, who noted that without the expansion, people who needed services often had to drive several hours to receive them.

Boldin, who is Gov. Chris Sununu’s policy advisor on prevention, treatment and recovery, delivered greetings on behalf of Sununu.

Boldin said he was fortunate to receive help quickly when he needed it.

“A lot of people who were better than me, a lot of people stronger than me, died of this disease,” he said, because they did not have the same access.

Shaheen pointed out that the expansion happened because of perseverance and partnerships. She pledged to keep fighting to ensure that substance-abuse treatment remains covered by medical insurance.

Hassan, who came to the Friendship House this past April and voiced objections to Trump’s budget proposal, said the facility is on the “front lines” of combatting substance abuse. She called it “an important resource for the North Country, for our entire state.”

District 1 State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, said the expansion of the Friendship House was a tremendous positive, but in the overall, it represented a “minimum” of what needs to be done to address substance abuse.

Jeffrey Meyers, who is the commissioner of the NH Department of Health and Human Services, said the state has “embarked on an incredibly significant effort” to build capacity for treatment, adding that the Friendship House would play a major role in it.

Kristy Letendre, who previously worked for 14 years at Friendship House before joining the North Country Health Consortium in September, said she learned humility, courage, strength and hope from the people she counseled there.

The expanded Friendship House, Letendre said, is a reminder “that persistence pays off.”

jkoziol@newstote.com


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