I heard the news today: HOPE stays vigilant fighting the good fight, despite lack of funding

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.


Non-clinical recovery services at the HOPE centers in NH have been offered free to anyone seeking help since the organization opened a center in Manchester in July of 2015. The announcement earlier this week, of the organization’s decision to close four of its centers came at the cost of staying true to this non-profit organization’s beliefs, in a time when federal and state funding is nowhere to be found.

Some feel these funds are too attached to requiring organizations move to Medicaid reimbursements that can cost “admin-o-millons” to set up and get approved for, and which ultimately fall short in covering the cost of providing treatment and recovery services. No doubt it’s a complex conversation – and it’s even more complicated to understand for many smaller non-profit community providers.

And still, those affected will rise and find a way.

Of course they always do. In this case, the headlines could have easily said “HOPE remains true to its mission and thoughtfully downsizes so they can continue to help those in need for no fee.” These weary cowboys have been tireless in their one mission, of protecting and serving the herd, with love and commitment, and they are second to none.

The news of the closing of four of the five beautiful centers that HOPE for NH Recovery and their private donors helped prop up in communities around the state came to many as a hard blow because that is the way it was reported. Those who were paid staff are even more disappointed. But what I see in the aftermath are these amazing community cowboys standing by their herds and making the choice to continue to advocate for them.

Of course, HOPE is not the only organization facing funding strife in New Hampshire.

Never mind we are in the biggest health epidemic since the AIDS crisis, and have lost more people to addiction than to the Vietnam War. For the moment, we will just overlook that fact and take the lead from those who had no comment or solution to offer following HOPE’s announcement. What we heard was nothing but “crickets” from our political leaders on this matter. That is eye-opening to some, and validates what many of us in the recovery trenches have been saying for too long.

The story posted on WMUR about the HOPE closings lacked any solid response from state or local leadership, with many “not available” for comment. This lack of comment speaks loudly to the level of commitment and effort – or lack thereof – from our elected and appointed leaders to actually address the death and devastation addiction has had on these communities.

Meanwhile, the body count rises daily.

The story of HOPE is not about failure, at least not among the people who work and volunteer for HOPE, or those who use HOPE centers to become more resilient  in their own recovery journey. This is just another chapter in the long saga of New Hampshire’s inability to wrap itself around solutions.

I assure you these current “leaders” have been continually informed of the serious financial risk HOPE was facing in putting it all out there with a proven support program that meets people where they are and walks alongside them. Everyone at “the top” knew their plan to move forward with their mission – even without a committed fund stream from the millions of dollars pouring into this state; only with the few committed and generous donors and thousands of volunteer-hours it took to create something where nothing else existed when they launched HOPE.

The creation of community recovery centers was required to save lives in these communities. The body count was up to 500 sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and citizens when HOPE decided the time for action was “now” and figuring out funding would have to come “later.” It was the right thing to do, and centers started to open. They had faith our leaders would see the wisdom in their action, and follow through with help; empty promises sold to them like a bill of goods.

The result of HOPE’s action? Thousands of people found a pathway to recovery, education, jobs, and increased quality of life. HOPE helped many families reunify, provided guidance to available treatment, and to some, even a place to lay their weary heads and a chance to access the vital immediate help they needed. Pretty good outcomes, if you ask me.

Former Gov. Chris Christie, right, held a listening session at HOPE for NH in December of 2015, while campaigning. He was one of many presidential candidates who heard about NH’s drug crisis. He now serves as Chair for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Photo/Carol Robidoux

HOPE rose up at the behest of the communities who needed services. These communities were informed about how peer-to-peer recovery works, with public meetings, countless town halls, and conversation after conversation. At the time the political “matrix” at the top was also informed: Jeannie Shaheen, informed; Annie Kuster, informed; Maggie Hassan, informed; countless representatives and mayors, informed; almost every single Presidential Primary hopeful who canvassed through New Hampshire was informed. Therapy providers were informed. Businesses were informed. The alcohol and drug licensing board, informed. Communities at large, hospitals and even Gov. Chris Sununu  –  all were informed, and continue to be. Because still, HOPE rises to inform them, despite the negative response they often receive. It’s hard to be the new idea in an established system. It’s hard to break down the walls that still remain among our state’s providers, who have been comfortably operating in silos, reliant on funding streams they are unwilling to share.

HOPE has been nothing but transparent. And their message is that the mission is not over, but the city of Manchester can not continue to pay for the whole state’s burden to provide these services. Honest and true words here folks – of course, honest words don’t always make you the most popular on Election Day right? So maybe that is one reason the silence from the top is so deafening.

In every community HOPE was planted in, the local elected officials were informed. At the state level, the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, and the Department of Health and Human Services, were informed. They were all appropriately informed that these communities needed recovery services for the people and families struggling every day. They were informed of the funding restrictions around recovery services, and the needs this non-profit grassroots organization had when they grew from Manchester and tried to blossom into the farther-flung counties and towns across New Hampshire. They were informed and challenged to justify the existing festering bureaucratic red tape that does nothing but create barriers for Recovery Community organizations. They were told these types of services can and do help protect community members’ commitment to recovery, not to mention protecting the state’s Medicaid investments in treatment, the small investments that inevitably lower the cost of incarceration and hospitalization for the taxpayer by helping those who find their way to treatment continue living a life of long-term recovery.

Then they were all informed and given a simple, very financially responsible plan for a recovery solution to invest in.

So what happened? Who pulled the rug out from under a system of sustained recovery from addiction?

Our officials  were informed that HOPE raised and spent hundreds of thousands of private donor dollars to help these communities in need, and placed thousands of people – who showed up desperate for a lifeline – into treatment before the state showed up.

These folks at HOPE are resilient enough to continue to serve without the state showing up again. It’s how the recovery community works best; they show up and help out to create a culture of acceptance, inclusivity, and opportunity!

HOPE and its volunteers, community supporters, partners, donors, and staffers rose to the occasion to serve their friends and families in these communities with virtually no state administrative support. They swam through the murky waters of dirty politics, another huge good ol’ boy network establishment with the tired motto, and I quote, “That is not how New Hampshire does it.” It’s a fundamental and foundational system at the state level that had not been questioned, challenged or changed in years. HOPE scraped and begged, gathered and collected whatever they could find – printers and computers were just the tip of the iceberg. They all pulled together and did what they could.

When the small money finally came with a million strings attached they continued to serve these communities with what little money was granted to them in this fight. Some of the regions they served had no donors show up. They held bake sales that barely raised enough for the cost of a ream of paper, let alone heating costs in the North Country. In fact, the state never bothered to fund HOPE in its one small contract directed to that region, which only allowed one full-time and one part-time employee.

And people wonder why Manchester is inundated with demand for help and services?

But HOPE still stood up, and the community helped out as best they could. They fought like recovery warriors in a battle for the lives of their fellow Granite Staters. They did all that with the one weapon that addiction stands no chance of wining over, the one thing that did not cost anything and which is  abundant in these communities: love of the people for their fellow people.

And despite everything that hasn’t happened to support this organization, HOPE still rises to save lives.  Despite all of the negative press, and political banter around “possible positive outcomes” in the quality of life for struggling Granite Staters every day, for the most part, recovery is still lost in a mountainous desert filled with naysayers, non-recovery believers, and apocalyptic ignorance.

The WMUR article quoted NH DHHS Commissioner Jeff Myers, who said, “We are working on a solution.” If that is true, why is it that several vital organizations out there have had serious budget cuts, or no contracts and funds at all since last July? Why is it that there are as many as 25 recovery homes that have never even been considered for funding yet. Why was Serenity Place, which existed in the state for decades, allowed to implode when their services were needed most? When will New Hampshire actually invest in the solutions that are available, and standing right in front of them?

NH DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Myers.

One would hope Jeff Myers has certainly been informed that the state’s Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services remains in chaos, seriously understaffed and underfunded, and has been for many years now. He would know they have a current transition of leadership that is hopeful, but not timely given the scope of this epidemic. The question of what your state and your elected reps are doing about it is somewhat easily answered. They have been busy voting to build up monuments and voting down more funding to help the critical need in BDAS. The state’s contracted providers support the new innovations, which promise practices, education, and technical support that can save lives. These are your elected officials, and they need to be held accountable by “we the people” they serve for results from the state departments they oversee – the very ones that spend our tax dollars to provide solution-based strategies and implementation of them.

Lastly, the recovery community was informed that they were all needed at the front lines, even though rations were low and the frontier was harsh. Although they may not have articulated the power of the vote, or found their collective voice yet, in this state these starving providers, and the remaining fearful funded ones, they knew what they were facing and still stepped up to the front lines.

In my time at HOPE I saw many incredibly loving citizens with lived experience or family experience around addiction who signed up to answer the call, and the meager stone soup they started with turned into a beautiful bounty of recovery in every community HOPE touched. Maybe this alarm, over the closing of community recovery centers at a time when they are so desperately needed, will prompt a different response from these communities and the reps that serve them. It’s time for elected officials to answer the call and actually serve their constituents. Because the war on addiction continues for this determined, resilient, mission focused, organization called HOPE.

Opportunities remain for the communities who have lost their HOPE centers. People in recovery can all rise to do what they can, where they can, to help the sick and suffering. It doesn’t matter where, whether it’s at a center, or in a church, or in a private home, at a bus stop, at a school, before or after work.

As a person in long-term recovery, this lady will show up on Election Day and use my voice. I’ve said it before – and I will say it again – HOPE for NH has a resilient community with a beautiful heart and soul, and they will continue to gratefully RISE to help the sick and needy where they can, no matter how difficult the journey. I am thankful for the positives I’ve seen, and the many lives saved that have been made possible by this organization’s mission. I’m blessed to live the truth we all know, which is that there is life after addiction.

For today, my prayer is for the communities affected. Lord, may you please give them the strength to stand together undivided on common ground to help save their neighbors. Embrace them in your arms, Lord, let them know their efforts to protect the lives of others will never – and have never – been in vain. AMEN.

Learn more about HOPE for NH Recovery services here.

Holly Cekala is former Executive Director of HOPE for NH Recovery and currently works for Groups Recover Together