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Push made for more funding to deal with opioid crisis

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Director of Office of National Drug Control Policy visits students in Milford

New funding could be on the way to help New Hampshire communities battle the drug crisis.

Jim Carroll, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, visited the Milford Boys and Girls Club on Monday to listen to stories and suggestions from students.

"I felt kind of nervous because I didn't know a lot of people here, but once I heard people speak, I realized we are all focused on the same thing: trying to put a stop to the drugs and the alcohol and the bullying," said Riley Watson, of Community Action for Safe Teens.

Carroll said it's clear more resources are needed to fight the problem.

"I'm usually one of the most fiscally conservative (people) in the room," he said. "We're not spending enough money."

The Office of Drug Control Policy oversees $40 billion earmarked for states in the throes of a drug epidemic. Several drug-free communities in New Hampshire are now facing a funding crisis as their grants have expired, but officials said their work is far from over.

"We need to make sure the resources continue to come, because we are still in the middle of a crisis with substance-use disorders," said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster have introduced the Turn the Tide Act in the Senate and House. It would provide flexible funding over 10 years to support long-term efforts in the fight against the opioid crisis nationwide.

The crisis is expanding from opioids to methamphetamine, spice and cocaine, officials said.

"The youth are very focused on vaping and bullying and the kinds of issues they're struggling with," Kuster said.

"The strongest voices that we heard today were those of the students who were here," said U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas. "It's amazing the leadership they're taking."

Statistics said New Hampshire is gaining some ground when it comes to overdose deaths.

"This epidemic didn't come about overnight," said U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan. "We're not going to turn the tide overnight, either."

If the Turn the Tide Act is approved, it would provide $63 billion in funding.