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Officials: City is making progress in effort to address opioid crisis

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 07. 2017 10:38PM

MANCHESTER — The Queen City is making progress in its efforts to address the opioid crisis, but there is much more work to be done.

That sums up the reaction by city officials to the “2016 City of Manchester: Response to the Opioid Crisis Annual Report” given by Manchester Public Health Director Tim Soucy and other public health and safety officials Tuesday night before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at City Hall.

“This is a detailed report of many successful programs, working together here in the city to make progress,” said Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas. “Progress. Collectively, in this battle to end the opioid epidemic what we have achieved is progress. Progress that we can build on — and that is something we should all be proud of.”

In attendance for the discussion were Judge Ken Brown, who operates the Hillsborough County Drug Court North that started in November, New Hampshire Drug Czar James Vara; Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, Commissioner of Health & Human Services Jeff Meyers, State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester, and Tim Rourke, Chairman of the Governor’s Council on Drugs and Alcohol.

Soucy’s presentation reviewed information detailed in a new 24-page report on actions taken and services offered in Manchester in 2016 in response to the opioid crisis. The report is a comprehensive look at the response to the crisis in the Queen City, covering everything from police and fire statistics to school activities, and the growing number of addiction recovery services available in Manchester.

The report was compiled by staff in the city’s health department, along with help from the group Makin’ It Happen.

The full 24-page report can be viewed below:

In 2016, Manchester Fire Department and American Medical Response (AMR) reported 785 suspected overdose calls for service. Of those, 566 patients were treated with Naloxone and 90 were fatal overdoses related to opioids. Last year Granite United Way invested over $326,250 directly into the city’s response to the opioid crisis through donations providing support for several organizations including Hope for NH Recovery/Amber’s Place; Helping Hands Outreach Safe Station respite and the city’s new drug court.

According to the report, Serenity Place saw significant growth in 2016, serving 2,281 clients in 2016, with 52 percent of these individuals reporting Manchester as their residence or last known address.

“This epidemic has permeated every aspect of our daily lives — in our homes, in our classrooms, in our hospitals, on our streets — it is everywhere,” said Gatsas. “As a community we have never hid from that fact. Not once have we ever said, ‘this isn’t pretty, let’s pretend its not happening and not talk about this.’ Instead we came together and said, ‘let’s not wait, let’s try to figure this out and let’s get working.’ And we have never been afraid to try. That’s the Manchester way.”

The report identifies several gaps officials believe exist in opioid crisis care in the city, including: difficulty filling open positions with qualified applicants in the workforce, developmentally appropriate treatment and recovery support services for youth and young adults, and language barriers.

The report wraps up with a brief look at plans for 2017, including increased collaboration in tracking and sharing data across organizations; Manchester fire officials working with community partners to establish protocol for minors accessing Safe Station program; and increasing gender specific services to break the barriers to treatment for women including transportation and child care.

“We will continue to look at minors, and how a minor could access a program,” said Soucy. “And we really have to look at housing.”

“I think we need to get all the providers in a room quarterly, and talk about what the next steps are,” said Gatsas.

“This is a comprehensive report,” said Alderman Pat Long of Ward 3. “This is a conversation that we need to continue having. I think there’s a major need to find treatment for youth. I’m glad to see the collaboration here, because that’s what it’s going to take.”

“This is a good start, but we have a long way to go folks,” said Alderman At Large Dan O’Neil.

“What’s good about this is getting the numbers,” said Long. “There’s a belief this is a Manchester problem. The numbers show it’s not just a Manchester problem, but the numbers do show that Manchester is helping a number of people from around the state.”

“What’s important to understand is why do people come to Manchester,” said Alderman Bill Barry of Ward 10. “The reason people do gravitate to Manchester is we have the Hillsborough county jail, suboxone clinics ... We’ve got it all here. People come here because they know they are going to get the help they need. We don’t turn anyone away.”

Slides from a presentation made Tuesday night about the report can be viewed below:

Health Public Safety Local and County Government Heroin Manchester