My Turn: Abandoning Medicaid expansion isn’t an option for New Hampshire

For the Monitor
Laste modified: Friday, February 26, 2016
On Feb. 10, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted in favor of reauthorizing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, continuing health insurance coverage for nearly 48,000 Granite Staters. Approximately 6,700 of these individuals will likely access treatment services for substance use disorders.

The New Hampshire Health Protection Program is the single most important tool New Hampshire has to address its opioid epidemic, our state’s No. 1 public health crisis. This program has already saved lives in New Hampshire.

Kaitlyn, a mother from Laconia, is one of many whose life was saved as a result of the services she received through the New Hampshire Health Protection Program.

According to Kaitlyn, the New Hampshire Health Protection Program made the difference between leaving her child motherless or recovering from her addiction. She is alive today because she got treatment through the program.

New Hampshire needs to provide rapid-response and adequate treatment for people suffering from substance misuse, when they need it and where they need it. We cannot overstate the impact the New Hampshire Health Protection Program is having across the state, particularly for beneficiaries with substance use disorders and their families and for providers seeking to expand their capacity to provide treatment and recovery services.

New Hampshire had the third highest rate of drug induced deaths per capita in the United States in 2014. According to an October 2015 poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire, Granite Staters view the opioid crisis as the No. 1 issue facing our state.

New Futures’ advocates will be the first to tell you that access to treatment and recovery services are critical to someone physiologically snared by heroin. Our state is currently woefully inadequate when it comes to the availability of substance use disorder services.

The New Hampshire Health Protection Program is the only solution on the horizon to fill this void. Sustained reimbursement for services through this program will not only save lives, but will enable existing New Hampshire providers to expand treatment capacity and attract new providers to the state.

Increased treatment capacity is a vital component of the solution to the opioid epidemic.

The dramatic rise in overdose deaths has rightfully grabbed our state’s attention, but the impact of drugs and alcohol on our economy cannot be understated: almost $2 billion per year. Many are familiar with the narrative of jails and prisons becoming our de facto treatment centers, but lost in this epidemic is the burden on employers. Drug and alcohol problems cost the New Hampshire business sector $1.15 billion in lost productivity and earnings. Alcohol misuse alone resulted in an estimated 9,237 fewer male workers in New Hampshire’s labor force in 2012, an overall reduction in the state’s labor force of 1.2 percent.

The New Hampshire Health Protection Program has already enabled hundreds of our citizens to reclaim their lives and get back to work. The health of residents is a keystone issue that has exponential impacts on other sectors. New Hampshire cannot let its drug and alcohol crisis continue to intensify its workforce crisis, its criminal justice crisis and its health care crisis.

New Futures commends the New Hampshire House of Representatives for supporting a practical, bipartisan response to our drug and alcohol crisis. Failure to reauthorize the program would represent a major setback in the war against our opioid epidemic. Access to treatment and recovery services through the New Hampshire Health Protection Program is the most viable alternative to overdoses and jails. To those who oppose the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, what is your solution to New Hampshire’s No. 1 public health crisis?

(Linda Saunders Paquette is the executive director of New Futures.)