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Lack of funding, recovery housing cited as challenges in Dover

Union Leader Correspondent

September 18. 2017 10:46PM
The director of SOS Recovery talks about the challenges they face at his three peer-to-peer recovery centers in Dover, Durham and Rochester. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

DOVER — Leaders in the recovery field and their community partners discussed what challenges them Monday morning during a legislative breakfast and panel discussion at SOS Recovery Community Center in Dover.

John Burns, the director of SOS Recovery, cited funding and a lack of housing for those in recovery as two of the key issues he sees at his Dover, Durham and Rochester centers. Burns said they have four staff members charged with keeping the buildings open 125 hours a week. They rely heavily on volunteers to keep programs running for those in recovery.

Burns said the centers in Rochester and Durham opened last year with $5,000 from NH Charitable Foundation. In April, the Dover location opened with assistance from Goodwin Community Health and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital.

Burns said only 10 to 13 percent of the state funds designated to fight the drug epidemic go to peer recovery support services. Meanwhile, the Granite Hammer program for police has received $4 million over the course of the last two years, Burns said.

Burns said half of the people arrested through Granite Hammer funds are caught with possession of drugs.

“We need to stop arresting people and get them help,” Burns said.

“I really have to ask the question, ‘Are we still trying to arrest our way out of this?’ when I see these numbers,” Burns said.

Burns said a lack of recovery housing is an issue his members face. He said 10.4 percent of the people SOS Recovery serves are homeless and 27.7 percent of them live with family members.

“There’s no reason people trying to maintain recovery should walk through these doors homeless,” Burns said.

Mark Lefebvre, director of the Triangle Club in Dover, said it is under construction to double its size. The center runs 49 meetings a week for those in recovery, serving more than 200 people a day.

Lefebvre said they were the first in the state to host a Heroin Anonymous meeting in 2015. At their most recent Heroin Anonymous meeting, there were 85 people in attendance. Of those in attendance, 90 percent were under the age of 30, Lefebvre said.

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, addressed the crowd. During her speech, Hassan recognized Elizabeth Atwood, who was named as Hassan’s inaugural Granite Stater of the Month. Atwood is a capacity building specialist for SOS Recovery in Rochester and is in long term recovery.

“You have inspired people who face the same challenges and that’s, in fact, what your advocacy does and the advocacy and work of the entire staff at SOS Recovery does. It really does exemplify what we do in New Hampshire. We come together, we don’t wait for other people to solve problems. We initiate it ourselves, and we figure out what to do,” Hassan said, as she recognized that September is recovery month.

Hassan said her top priority in Washington, D.C., is to support people working on the front lines of the drug crisis.

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