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Local and state officials discuss opioid crisis 

  • Kate Frey, Vice President of Advocacy for New Futures, discusses the impacts of the state’s opioid crisis at a panel hosted by the Council for a Healthier Community on Friday, May 11, 2017. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Panel members discuss the impacts of the state’s opioid crisis at an event hosted by the Council for a Healthier Community on Friday, May 11. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Kate Frey, Vice President of Advocacy for New Futures, discusses the impacts of the state’s opioid crisis at a panel hosted by the Council for a Healthier Community on Friday, May 11, 2017. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Panel members discuss the impacts of the state’s opioid crisis at a discussion hosted by the Council for a Healthier Community on Friday, May 11, 2017. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A public health advisory council in the greater Monadnock region hosted a panel discussion Friday afternoon directed at state and local efforts addressing the opioid crisis that’s ravaging the state.

The Council for a Healthier Community, whose purpose is to lead the community-driven process for improving health outcomes, hosted the event at the Cheshire County Department of Corrections, which was comprised of local and state representatives who work closely with opioid-related issues.

“This is not something we got into overnight,” said James Vara, Gov. Sununu’s advisor on Addiction and Behavioral Health.

About 12 years ago, prescription pills were the issue, he said. At the time, Vara was a prosecutor, and nearly every case that crossed his desk involved prescription pills. About five years ago, state officials said prescription pills turned into heroin, which turned into fentanyl, and, most recently, carfentanil.

“We saw that shift in New Hampshire,” Vara said.

Each development has been more lethal than the last.

As a representation, Vara said, opioid-related deaths have spiked from a little less than 200 a few years ago to about 400 deaths last year. He said all of those deaths are a result of a combination of heroin and fentanyl, or straight fentanyl. He said fentanyl is largely manufactured in China, shipped to Mexico, and then moved north. New Hampshire’s supply is coming from northern Massachusetts.

He said carfentanil is the most concerning recent development. The drug, which is used as a large game tranquilizer, is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

“What that means is we will see significantly more overdose deaths,” Vara said.

Already the trend is playing out. In Manchester alone they have tallied 40 overdoses, eight of which have resulted in deaths this year.

“A great fear I have is certainly that we’ll see more of this,” Vara said. “… People will be dying everywhere.”

Kate Frey, vice president of advocacy for New Futures, based in Concord, said in addition to the loss of lives, the crisis also poses a statewide economic issue.

In 2014, the crisis is estimated to cost $1.8 billion. More recently that number has spiked to $2.36 billion. She said that number includes a loss of productivity in the workplace, health care, criminal justice, motor-vehicle crashes, and local costs as well.

“There is no way to get around substance abuse impacts, not only at a personal level, but now on the statewide economy,” Frey said, adding that it costs an estimated $21,000 annually for a person struggling with substance misuse. “… And that doesn’t even mention the human cost.”

A flurry of statistics and anecdotes given by panel members during the session painted a bleak picture of the future of the state’s crisis.

But one statistic doesn’t: 53 percent.

That’s the number of people in New Hampshire who say this crisis is the top problem facing the state.

“Those of you who work in mental health know an individual is not going to change their behavior until they realize there’s a problem, and we can expand that to the state, the state is not going to change their behavior until they know that there’s a problem,” Nelson Hayden, Keene Serenity Center board treasurer and a recovering addict, said. “And 53 percent of this state knows that there’s a problem.”