SOMERSWORTH — Sixteen people turned out for a roundtable discussion at Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth on Monday morning.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, was there to talk about the Turn the Tide Act, which will provide $63 billion in funding over 10 years to deliver flexible treatment funding to providers, establish proven prevention programs and address workforce challenges in the treatment field.
Shaheen asked what more legislators need to do to ensure the act helps local communities get results in their battle against the opioid crisis.
John Burns, who is the director of SOS Recovery Community Organization, said more sober housing is needed for people in recovery.
“They’re coming in here for outpatient treatment and they’re living in a tent,” Burns said. “That’s a huge issue that we’re able to find a way to not only provide recovery housing but some sort of housing while they’re waiting.”
Burns said even if a person is not living in a tent, they may be living with someone who is still actively addictive, making it harder for them to get clean.
Dover Mayor Karen Weston said her city has joined in a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies that make opioids.
“These folks know these drugs are addictive. They know. So, to me, their penalties have got to be astronomical to help in the prevention,” Weston said.
Shaheen said legislators are trying to incentivize other options to pain relief.
“Sometimes, it’s easier and less expensive to prescribe an opioid, so what this does is to try and provide incentives for other forms of medication,” Shaheen said.
State Representative Gerri Cannon, D-Somersworth, talked about how children are affected by the opioid crisis. She is a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and a serves on Somersworth’s school board.
“We’ve had children that have been brought before the board that are disorderly and have had challenges in school. And then you meet their parents, and you know why because we’ve had parents that come in that are higher than a kite,” Cannon said.
The Turn the Tide Act establishes a new grant program modeled after the successful Manchester Adverse Childhood Experiences Response Team, which assists children who have been exposed to trauma as a result of addiction. It provides $20 million a year for similar programs to be established throughout the country.
The Turn the Tide Act also provides $50 million a year to help the treatment workforce pay for student loans, including $25 million that is reserved for medical professionals practicing in hard-hit states such as New Hampshire.
It requires private insurers and Medicare Part D plans to provide coverage for Naloxone without any co-pay or deductible requirements. For patients who have not met their deductible, a kit typically costs about $130.
The act includes $10 million to help law enforcement officials who have been impacted by the stress, trauma and burnout of responding to the opioid epidemic. Money will also be available for firefighters and EMTs who want access to mental health and wellness services.
An estimated 420 Granite Staters died from a drug overdose in 2018.