Story by Kyle Stucker
Photos by Deb Cram
SOMERSWORTH — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and a roundtable of local stakeholders stressed Monday that a new $63 billion federal bill’s substance use disorder funds must be flexible so states like New Hampshire can best help their residents.
Shaheen, D-N.H., scheduled the discussion with medical providers, recovery experts and practitioners, municipal leaders and law enforcement officials at Goodwin Community Health. The meeting focused on how her new Turn the Tide Act should work to stem the Granite State’s substance misuse epidemic.
“Probably the No. 1 concern I’ve heard as I’ve traveled around is that we need things to be more flexible,” said Shaheen. “Making it fit with each community is what we need to do.”
Shaheen’s proposal would provide $63 billion nationally to address substance use disorder over the next 10 years.
It would increase annual State Opioid Response treatment grants from $1.5 billion to $5.5 billion over the first five years, as well as provide $27.5 billion over 10 years for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.
The latter gives states the ability to provide wraparound services related to opioids, alcohol, meth, cocaine and other substances commonly used in New Hampshire.
The bill would also increase prevention resources by, among other things, extending the term cap on the Drug Free Community grant program from two to five years.
It would also fund measures designed to reduce the types of adverse childhood trauma and experiences that lead to substance use. It proposes increased Medicaid payment rates to help increase the limited number of psychiatric medication providers in the state. It would use $50 million a year to provide student loan forgiveness to the treatment workforce. It would also improve first responder assistance and eliminate roadblocks like co-pays for naloxone and Narcan.
Some attendees spoke at length Monday about child trauma and the need to prevent creating another generation of people with substance use disorder challenges. The proposed bill would provide $20 million per year to implement a new grant program modeled after the successful Manchester Childhood Emergency Response Team to help child exposed to trauma, according to Shaheen.
“I think it’s very easy in situations like this for us to just be responsive in terms of the needs of the adults and getting their situations stabilized, but I’m telling you we’re missing an opportunity if we continue to not think about… the next generation,” said a Jessica Sugrue, chief executive officer of YWCA New Hampshire.
Others asked Shaheen to look into how the bill can support alternative treatments like Greater Seacoast Community Health’s new grant-funded acupuncture detoxification program.
“This is something we may need to look at,” said Shaheen.
Shaheen and others also said focus on alcohol resources and prevention is important because it’s often forgotten behind opioids despite alcoholism being more widespread.
While Shaheen said her proposed bill’s $63 billion in funding is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the actual costs of substance use disorder, she said she’s hopeful it will still make a positive difference for many of the nation’s struggling communities.
The full text of Shaheen’s Turn the Tide bill can be found at bit.ly/TurnTheTideAct.