MANCHESTER, NH — Gov. Chris Sununu on Wednesday will detail his vision for how NH should spend the anticipated $45.8 million in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant money when he unveils his opioid response plan.
He’s hinting at a streamlined and drastically reformed system for “how individuals are able to access SUD services, increase access to that treatment, reduce unmet treatment needs, and reduce the devastating impact that opioid use disorder has had on our communities through investments in prevention, treatment, and recovery services.”
The language used by Sununu is heartening, says Mayor Joyce Craig.
She, along with city health officials and a consortium of leaders on the front lines of Manchester’s opioid crisis took the initiative to submit a proposal in advance of Wednesday’s announcement to demonstrate the great need here in Manchester.
In fact, Manchester was the only municipality to get out in front of the proposed two-year grant funding, making a case for why Manchester deserves a portion of funding that is in line with the disproportionate number of people receiving substance use disorder services here. The city’s plan (see below) is supported by facts, figures and data.
“When we found out there was a large amount of money coming to New Hampshire, we got together a large group of people to put a proposal forward,” Craig said.
At the heart of the four-point plan is expansion of medication assisted treatment through something called the hub-and-spoke model, which has proven effective in Vermont.
Manchester’s proposal is the result of extensive research into what’s been working in other states, and how those strategies can be applied to Manchester in a model that Craig believes can be replicated here, and elsewhere around the state.
In simplest terms, Craig explains that the “hub” would be a local hospital where medically assisted treatment is provided. The spokes are those avenues for continued care, whether a primary care physician’s office, Manchester Mental Health, or Granite Pathways, where services including counseling or other community-based resources can be accessed.
“Within this system there is collaboration and communication between the two, and it’s easy to move back and forth between them, and track a person as they move through the process,” Craig said.
The partners involved in developing this plan include Elliot Health Systems, Catholic Medical Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Families in Transition-New Horizons, The Farnum Center, Granite Pathways, The Manchester Community Health Center, The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, The Granite United Way, The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Makin’ It Happen, Network4Health and The City of Manchester.
Sununu said Monday that the two-year grant will help create “clear points of entry” for any resident in need of services.
“Taking that first step of asking for help for substance use disorder is often the hardest. The model we are proposing is intended to make that first step the easiest,” Sununu said. “New Hampshire ranks as one of the healthiest states in the nation, but this recognition masks the crippling effects of the opioid crisis. The SOR funding will help us drastically reform how individuals are able to access SUD services, increase access to that treatment, reduce unmet treatment needs, and reduce the devastating impact that opioid use disorder has had on our communities through investments in prevention, treatment, and recovery services.”
Sununu on Aug. 15 will outline his proposal, which includes a regional approach to addressing the crisis in nine regions throughout the state, to include expanding medication-assisted treatment (MAT), recovery supports services, access to recovery housing, evidence-based prevention programs, workforce opportunities, and training and education for providers and people in recovery.
“The State’s proposal has been directly informed by the valuable feedback DHHS has received from individuals who have personal experience with the epidemic, advocates, stakeholders and the citizens of New Hampshire,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey A. Meyers. “We are grateful for the opportunity to apply for funding that will allow us to provide additional, critical support for those struggling with addiction.”
Craig says the city and its partners worked hard to develop a strategic plan that will address one of the persistent issues surfacing as the costs associated with addiction, treatment and prevention escalate — and fallout trickles down to our city’s youngest citizens.
“I absolutely hope that the governor will take into consideration how hard this crisis has hit Manchester. For example, we’ve had to increase school counselors and other professionals in the school district as a result of the opioid crisis, so if we can get additional resources we can help young students affected by this,” Craig said.
“Yes, we have needs that have not been met. But we also have expertise and a willingness to work together — from Chief Goonan and Tim Soucy, to the city’s hospitals — all those who rally around the table on a daily basis. Knowing a significant amount of money is coming into the state, we put great minds together to come up with the best way to address the needs, and the most effective and efficient manner of doing so,” Craig said. “I hope the governor follows Manchester’s lead when he puts forth his response plan.”
Sununu will hold a press briefing in the Executive Council Chambers at 11 a.m. on August 15, where he will detail the State’s opioid response plan.
The final award of the monies from SAMHSA is expected on or about September 30, 2018.