Learn from New Hampshire as it battles the opioid epidemic
This week, The Hill featured on its website an open letter that I wrote to President Trump in response to his characterization of New Hampshire as a “drug-infested den” in a call with the president of Mexico. I described the incredible work being done in New Hampshire by law enforcement, first responders, healthcare providers, medical researchers, advocates and people in recovery to combat the state’s opioid crisis. President Trump should learn from those who are on the frontlines of this epidemic instead of disparaging our state. You can read the whole letter below and here.
Mr. President: Learn from New Hampshire as it battles the opioid epidemic
BY CONGRESSWOMAN ANN MCLANE KUSTER (D-N.H.)- Aug. 9, 2017
Dear Mr. President,
I write in response to your characterization of my beloved state of New Hampshire as a "drug-infested den" in your first conversation in January with the president of Mexico.
New Hampshire is a prideful state and we don't take kindly to people disparaging our beautiful home. We are honest, hard-working people, who are rising to the challenge of a fast-paced opioid epidemic sweeping across this country. We invite you to listen and learn from our law enforcement, first responders, healthcare providers, medical researchers, advocates and the brave men and women in recovery who are leading New Hampshire out of this crisis with innovative and effective programs that will help millions of Americans.
The opioid epidemic has left no state untouched. In 2014, more than 2 million Americans suffered from opioid use disorder, and more than 33,000 people died in 2015 of opioid related overdoses. Last year, New Hampshire was second only to West Virginia in opioid deaths per capita and this trend is only worsened by the increasing use of synthetic opioids.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, you met with advocates in New Hampshire and made a commitment to take on the opioid epidemic. Advocates such as Kriss Blevens, a cosmetologist who started a detox center after her stepdaughter Amber died of an overdose. It’s time you honored that commitment and learned from the many innovative solutions that we are pursuing in New Hampshire.
Our police departments around the state are changing their approach to the opioid epidemic, putting a premium on helping people get into treatment and recovery programs. It’s making a real difference.
In Manchester and Nashua, Safe Stations programs are getting people in crisis the support they need to access treatment and get well. New Hampshire’s drug courts, expanded and strengthened throughout the state by Justice Tina Nadeau, are now in place or in development in all ten counties, offering people in the criminal justice system more access to treatment services. Ross Cunningham, Merrimack County Superintendent of Corrections, is improving treatment services in correctional facilities to reduce recidivism. All of these should serve as models around the country for how to tackle the opioid crisis.
Dr. Lisa Marsch, Director of Dartmouth College’s Center for Technology and Behavioral Health, and her colleagues at Dartmouth Medical Center are engaging in cutting edge research to improve our understanding of the causes of this opioid epidemic.
Communities across the state are coming together to increase our drug treatment capacity. Groups like New Futures, Easter Seals, Harbor Homes, the North Country Health Consortium, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, among others, are making important strides in advocacy and increased treatment and recovery options.
Two years ago, I founded the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force with my former colleague Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) to bring together Republicans and Democrats to advance common sense solutions to turn the tide on the opioid crisis gripping rural America. Today it’s grown to over 90 members of Congress evenly split by party. I’ve been encouraged by the willingness of my colleagues to put aside their partisan differences to make progress on this issue. Our Task Force was instrumental in passing 14 House bills to address the opioid crisis that became part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Together we have held roundtables and briefings to educate members of Congress about the causes of this epidemic and innovative solutions to achieve real results.
Granite Staters have been posting breathtaking photos of the natural beauty of our lakes, mountains and coastline to share their pride in New Hampshire and rebut your disparaging remarks. We are a small, but mighty state - home to the First-in-the-Nation Presidential Primary, the first American in space, and the first all-female congressional delegation. We host championship dog sledding and ski races, Highland Games, and NASCAR. We boast the White Mountains, the world's largest pumpkin festival and the world's longest candy counter. Tourists flock to New Hampshire in every season to experience all our state has to offer.
And we will overcome, leading America out of this epidemic by fighting the stigma of addiction, inventing new pain management techniques and recovery programs, and advocating for new resources and legislation to protect our families and our communities.
Mr. President, listen, learn and visit us in New Hampshire to see real results. And when you come back, you can apologize to all the hard-working folks who call this beautiful state home.