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State gets $45.8M grant in opioid fight

By SHAWNE K. WICKHAM
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 20. 2018 11:09PM
Gov. Chris Sununu explained the hub-and-spoke model to address the opioid epidemic that New Hampshire plans to create with $45.8 million in federal funding, during a presentation at the State House last month. (Shawne K. Wickham/UNION LEADER)



CONCORD — The federal government has approved New Hampshire’s plan to create a “hub-and-spoke” system of care to address the state’s opioid epidemic.

Now the real work begins.

The Department of Health and Human Services was notified Wednesday that the state is getting nearly $23 million for the first year of what is expected to be a two-year grant.

The State Opioid Response (SOR) grant, which will total $45.8 million, comes from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It targets increasing access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and reducing overdose deaths.

DHHS plans to create nine “hubs” around the state that will serve as points of access for anyone with an opioid use disorder; the centers will be geographically located so that no one has to travel more than an hour to receive services.

Jake Leon, director of communications for DHHS, said the timeline in the plan calls for the system to be up and running in November.

That tight deadline means the agency already had begun issuing Requests for Proposals to implement the plan. “We kind of had to take it on faith that the money would come through,” Leon said.

Now that it has, DHHS officials will ask the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee on Friday for approval to accept and spend the funding.

The RFPs issued so far are for training providers in medication-assisted treatment, increasing delivery of MAT, peer recovery support services and creation of a SOR website.

Leon said the website will mirror the hub model, offering a “one-stop shop” where individuals can seek services. There will also be a helpline set up so people can find out about services by phone.

“We’re trying to make it so the brick and mortar, the phone call and the website experiences are aligned, and we make it as easy as possible for people to get the help they need as soon as they’re ready,” Leon said.

He acknowledged an “urgency” in his agency’s efforts to get the system up and running quickly, even while they were awaiting federal approval of the state plan. “This is building the bicycle while you’re riding it,” he said.

One of the most critical pieces is creation of the nine regional hubs. Leon said the process of identifying organizations that can serve as those hubs has begun; those contracts will be made public when they come up for approval by the Executive Council, he said.

The state plan also calls for increased access to recovery housing, peer recovery support services and workforce opportunities.

DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said with this funding, the state has “a tremendous opportunity ... to create a system that is easily accessible, client-centered, and focused on services that will support long-term recovery for our residents.”

And Leon said the goal is to create a “robust” system of care, with a full array of prevention, treatment and recovery services statewide.

“Everybody should be able to get high-quality care as soon as they are ready for it,” he said. “And it shouldn’t matter where they live.”

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Beyond the Stigma, a series exploring solutions to the state’s addiction and mental health challenges, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and 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.


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