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Council OKs contract for youth drug rehab at Sununu Center

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 03. 2018 11:43PM
The Executive Council has approved a residential treatment program for teenagers at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester. (UNION LEADER FILE)

CONCORD — The state’s effort to reshape its response to the opioid epidemic took another step forward on Wednesday, as the Executive Council approved a residential treatment program for teenagers at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester.

Councilors also authorized the expenditure of nearly $20 million in federal funds to build what has been called a “hub and spoke” system for addiction treatment statewide.

“This is the first time I’ve ever written the word ‘wow’ by an agenda item,” said Councilor Russell Prescott, R-Kingston.

Gov. Chris Sununu applauded the 5-0 council vote to approve a contract with Granite Pathways, a Manchester-based social service agency, to operate a 36-bed treatment center on three leased floors at the juvenile detention facility.

“I made a commitment to the people of New Hampshire that I would put the health and well-being of our children first,” said Sununu. “That is why last year in my budget I included the requisite funds to build an inpatient youth treatment center, the only one of its kind in New Hampshire, to ensure that New Hampshire’s children can receive the specialized care they need. I commend the council, members of the legislature, and many others who recognized the necessity of this vital project for our state’s children and helped make it a reality.”

The state has already invested $1.2 million in remodeling the North River Road facility to accommodate the drug treatment program, which could be up and running by November.

Granite Pathways will pay the state $374,000 a year from 2019 to 2022 to lease the three floors, each with 12 bedrooms.

The state will enter into a service agreement with Granite Pathways to provide addiction recovery services for adolescents between 12 and 18.

“The vendor will support the delivery of services by billing Medicaid, commercial insurers and other third parties for services provided,” according to DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers. No federal or state funds will be provided to Granite Pathways.

For the past two years the legislature has focused on reducing the population of juveniles held at the facility in favor of community-based services, leaving much of the space unused. The center has space for 144 residents, but housed only 28 as of late September.

‘Excess capacity’

The budget bill approved in 2017 requires the “excess capacity” at the Sununu Center be put to use for drug treatment, with services provided by a non-government entity.

Only two organizations submitted bids on the project, and Granite Pathways was deemed the best “by far,” according to Meyers.

The non-profit organization currently operates peer recovery centers in Manchester and Portsmouth and a network of regional access points across the state that offer screening and referrals for people struggling with addiction.

The council also approved expenditure of $19.2 million in federal funds, the first part of a two-year grant totaling more than $45 million, to set up a coordinated response to the opioid crisis among providers statewide in a “hub and spoke” system proven effective in other states.

The proposal calls for nine hubs across the state where individuals seeking treatment for addiction can go for a comprehensive needs assessment, and then be directed to appropriate services, from medication-assisted treatment to housing or job training.

The lack of these central clearing houses for services has hundreds of people from across the state flocking to firehouses in Nashua and Manchester, where Safe Station programs are being overwhelmed.

“We want to ensure we have a regional system in place so people don’t have to travel to one of those two locations,” said Meyers.

Seven ready to sign

Meyers said seven hospitals in the state are ready to sign contracts to serve as hubs, with negotiations underway in Nashua and Manchester for the remaining two.

“I’ll be back very shortly with these contracts and we want to get the operations stood up in January,” he said.

While services will be made available to anyone looking for help, certain populations will be a priority for the program, including children and young adults, pregnant women, veterans and service members, individuals with or at risk of HIV/AIDS, older adults caring for a minor and people recently released from prison.

Six full-time, grant-funded positions will be created, including an executive project manager.

Meyers said the change in the federal funding formula that resulted in the $45 million grant is bringing “significant resources to the state.”

“I think it’s going to enable us to address this crisis in a multitude of ways, and do so successfully,” he said. “What we are doing ultimately with all this money is standing up additional capacity to deliver services. This hub-and-spoke model will allow us to keep those services flowing as we build capacity. It’s getting providers to work together in ways they haven’t worked together before.”

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Thank you, Sununu