MANCHESTER, N.H. – U.S. Representative Chris Pappas (D-NH-01) joined with local first responders and law enforcement officials on Friday to discuss the state of fentanyl usage in the Manchester area and what can be at the federal level to stem the tide of the illegal substance that has become a key component of the ongoing opioid epidemic.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid and controlled substance designed for pain relief is approximately 50-100 times more potent than morphine. It has largely either supplanted other illegal drugs or is secretly laced into other illegal drugs used at the street level in New Hampshire.
The standard procedure for treating opioid overdoses is the use of Narcan, a drug that blocks other opioids, with 7,000 doses given in New Hampshire since January. However, the panel said they now have to be careful in situations where fentanyl is mixed with methamphetamines, as Narcan use in those situations can create a sudden recreation with the methamphetamine, leading to violent behavior from the user.
Government officials have aimed to spread the message that any drug obtained illegally in the Granite State likely contains some amount of fentanyl, with drug dealers now mixing the substance with Adderall to attract younger customers.
Manchester Fire Department EMT Director Chris Hickey says that the new reality has changed the dynamic he’s seen between parents and their children potentially experimenting with drugs.
“Gone are the days when parents can say ‘it’ll never be my kid,” said Hickey. “I have a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old and I cannot say I’ve given them too much information. I’ve been able to give them information over the years from a very young age, but I can’t say I’ve given them too much information because all it takes is once (using fentanyl) and that could unlock the key that changes the chemistry in their brain. All of the sudden, it can start getting to be something or potentially kill them.”
Hickey created the Safe Stations concept, which allowed individuals dealing with opioid abuse come to fire stations to seek treatment at their convenience. While some individuals still seek help at fire stations in the city, the supports offered by Safe Stations are now provided at the New Hampshire Doorways locations and in Manchester by the Manchester Fire Department’s Squad One.
First responders in the roundtable appreciated Pappas’ efforts to increase the amount and flexibility of SOAR funds available to Doorways locations, with 1,100 individuals helped in person and 1,100 more helped over the phone at Manchester’s Doorway location over the past year.
Pappas said that the discussion was more evidence regarding the efficacy of local, evidence-based approaches to the opioid epidemic.
“I’m just grateful for the way that our community has stepped up and helped draw attention (to this issue),” he said. “We need to see more of that cooperation.”
Pappas also said that more work needs to be done addressing the role of Mexican cartels, which are responsible most of the fentanyl in New Hampshire, as well as chemicals used by the cartels in the creation of fentanyl obtained from China.
He added that most of that fentanyl comes over the Mexican borders in small quantities at border checkpoints, which he said necessitates the need to hire more U.S. Border Patrol agents. Pappas also added that he is considering introducing legislation increasing penalties for fentanyl sold over the internet.