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Executive Council OKs Planned Parenthood contract

State House Bureau

June 21. 2017 8:27PM
Planned Parenthood supporters watch as the Executive Council votes on a $250,000 contract on Wednesday. (Dave Solomon/Union Leader)

CONCORD — The Executive Council on Wednesday approved a two-year, $275,000 contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to launch an early intervention program for individuals at risk of contracting the HIV virus.

The approval came after some confusion about the vote. Councilor David Wheeler, R-Milford, inadvertently voted to support the measure, and later expressed his opposition.

He pressed Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers on whether the opportunity to bid on the contract had been widely advertised. The only other bidder on the project was the Equality Health Center in Concord, formerly known as the Concord Feminist Health Center.

The Equality Health Center was awarded a $165,000 grant, bringing the total approved for the program to $440,000.

“I can’t believe there are only two entities in the state interested in bidding on these very important HIV services,” said Wheeler. “I understand it was just put out on the (DHHS) website with no other advertising. It gives me great concern for a statewide contract like this if that’s what’s going on.”

Meyers said the department followed the standard request for proposal procedure it uses for all of its contracts. “It was posted, and we got two bids that resulted in the contract that is before you,” he said.

The question of funding for Planned Parenthood contracts has been contentious at the council over the years, and a contingent of Planned Parenthood supporters wearing the organization’s signature pink T-shirts lined the back wall of the council chambers until the measure was approved, saying “thank you” on their way out.

According to Meyers, the two contractors will develop an early intervention program that includes HIV testing, targeted counseling services, referral services and health education “to assist clients in navigating the HIV system of care.”

“These services are designed to reduce individuals contracting HIV as well as lowering the transmission of the virus to others,” he said.

The request for proposals was posted to the department’s website from Dec. 13, 2016, to Feb. 1, 2017. The money is coming mostly from the Medicaid Drug Rebate program funded by pharmaceutical manufacturers and federal funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nominations confirmed

Robert Scott of Bow, who currently sits on the Public Utilities Commission, was confirmed by the Executive Council as the new commissioner of Department of Environmental Services, replacing Tom Burack who resigned Jan. 1.

The vote to confirm Scott was 3-2, with Republican councilors David Wheeler of Milford and Joe Kenney of Union voting against. Both had previously expressed concern about Scott’s failure to state a position on the Northern Pass hydroelectric project and questioned his determination to improve customer service at DES.

Councilors Russell Prescott, R-Kingston; Chris Pappas, D-Manchester; and Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, voted for the nomination.

Attorney Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi of Stratham, known as “Bobbie” Hantz, was unanimously confirmed as a justice on the state Supreme Court. At 62 years old, Hantz could serve slightly more than eight years on the court before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Attorney David Burns of Concord was confirmed as a judge on the New Hampshire Circuit Court on the same day Gov. Chris Sununu submitted two more judicial nominations. Attorneys Michael Alfano of Exeter and Polly Hall of Durham were both nominated to serve as Circuit Court judges.

Sununu advised the council that several other judicial nominations would be forthcoming this summer as he moves to fill vacancies left by retirements on the Circuit Court.

The council also confirmed the nomination of David Patch of Glen to serve on the Fish and Game Commission. Patch’s nomination had been held up for months over opposition by gun rights groups protesting positions the commission took on gun-related legislation.

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