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NH hoping to turn the tide in opioid crisis

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 16. 2016 9:35PM
Advocate Ashley Hurteau of Dover endorses the New Futures policy accountability initiative targeting substance abuse during a news conference in Concord on Tuesday. (DAN TUOHY/UNION LEADER)

Health advocates hope to “turn the tide” on the drug crisis by encouraging candidates and local and state officials to support a new five-point plan, including making Medicaid expansion permanent.

New Futures launched the accountability initiative at a news conference Tuesday attended by substance abuse experts, counselors, legislators, recovering addicts and police.

“Even though our governor and our Legislature worked very hard together during the last legislative session to pass several important bills aimed at addressing the crisis we’re experiencing, the work is not done,” said Linda Saunders Paquette, executive director of New Futures, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization.

The other goals are restoring the state’s alcohol fund, investing in evidence-informed prevention programs, advancing behavioral health workforce development, and removing barriers to insurance coverage.

Ashley Hurteau of Dover said access to health care as an enrollee of Medicaid expansion was critical to her addiction recovery.

Hurteau recounted being arrested more than once; before her second incarceration, she said, her husband and father of her child died from an overdose. She said an understanding police officer and drug court were key to her recovery.

“I am living proof that, by giving individuals suffering with substance use disorder access to health insurance, we, as a society, are giving people like me the chance to be who we really are again,” she said.

Eric Adams, prevention enforcement and treatment coordinator at the Laconia Police Department, spoke of the strain the epidemic is putting on social service agencies, businesses, and families. He emphasized the need for prevention, noting that he speaks with middle and high school students regularly.

“There’s no question that there are high school kids in our community who are using heroin,” Adams said.

Tym Rourke, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery, said New Hampshire must make greater strides for prevention of alcohol abuse.

The state’s alcohol fund has been funded at 5 percent of state liquor profits only once, Rourke said. The current biennium restored the percentage share formula, but at 1.7 percent, he said. “We need to remember that alcohol kills more people than all illicit drugs of abuse combined,” he said.

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