Originally published March 16, 2015
MANCHESTER, NH – On the same day Manchester Police Department issued a statement on the dramatic increase in heroin overdose calls and related deaths so far in 2015, a House committee voted to eliminate from Gov. Maggie Hassan’s proposed budget what many in the trenches of drug treatment say is “critical funding.”
Without it, those battling addiction will be left without services, options or hope.
Tym Rourke, Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Substance Use Disorders says such cuts would leave thousands without basic care for a “treatable disease.”
“What House Finance Division III is currently proposing is short-sighted at least, dangerous at worst. It is shocking that in this day and age, we would leave a group of people struggling with an entirely treatable disease unable to access basic care. In the heat of our state’s heroin epidemic – with three fatal overdoses in Manchester this past weekend alone and over 300 statewide in 2014 – the Committee has chosen to continue an anemic funding scheme, limiting treatment access in a way that is attributing to a staggering number of lives cut short due to untreated addiction,” says Rourke.
- Police responded to 105 drug overdoses in 2015 so far, with at least 14 deaths
- The Addict’s Mom: Finding hope, support, under the weight of heroin addiction
- NH Top Cops: ‘We Can’t Arrest Our Way Out’ of oxy, heroin epidemic
- ‘It looks like zombies have taken over the park’
- Bronstein Park: ‘This is the shit we go through every day’
Compounding the human toll from drug addiction is the economic strain fallout from addiction is placing on the state, says Rourke, with nearly 3 percent of New Hampshire’s Gross State Product lost to addiction in 2013.
- $1.15 Billion dollars in lost worker productivity and absenteeism at local businesses.
- $284 Million dollars in costs to police protection, the judicial system, and state and county correctional systems resulting from alcohol and drug misuse.
- $266 Million dollars in total costs to the New Hampshire healthcare system.
The House Finance Division III cuts will only make the problem worse, says Rourke.
“The Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery put forth a comprehensive plan to begin to turn the tide of this costly epidemic. The plan is evidence-based and has bi-partisan support. Instead of investing in solutions, however, the Committee is proposing to grow the size of government and further strain healthcare providers, law enforcement, businesses and tax payers, who will be left with the mess wrought upon individuals, families and communities. I hope that those who are impacted by this issue in their own lives and business make their concerns known, and that legislators reconsider this current path,” says Rourke.
He also noted that currently the committee is intent on cutting the governor’s committee proposed increase to the state Alcohol Fund, which is supposed to set aside 5 percent of the state’s profit on alcohol sales annually toward addiction services.
The committee is proposing flat funding of about $3.6 million annually for the biennium (based on profits, the figure should be $16.8 million).
“They are not yet done their work, so we are watching and hoping they make no further cuts, but we won’t know until their work concludes later this week,” Rourke said.
As news of the House Finance Division III Committee vote circulated, New Futures, a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group issued a call to action, urging those concerned about the need for increased services and funding to contact members of the committee to voice their “outrage” at the lack of support for expanded services.
A final vote is scheduled for the early part of next week, said Rourke.
Below is a call to action issued Monday night by New Futures:
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