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Dartmouth-Hitchcock lands $2.7M grant for pregnant women battling addiction



For the Monitor
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The first major addiction treatment funding to reach the Granite State since President Obama signed it into law in 2016 will be a $2.7 million federal grant for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to treat pregnant women using opioids.

“Today is an historic moment because now I feel that New Hampshire is not only going to address the opioid epidemic that we face but we are going to lead the rest of the country out of it,” U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster declared at the Family Willows substance use treatment center at Families in Transition in Manchester.

While the announcement was good news, it comes as the state is struggling to maintain services for those seeking treatment and recovery. On Tuesday, Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, one of the state’s largest nonprofits devoted to battling the drug crisis, said it was closing its recovery center facilities in Concord and three other cities, citing a lack of funding. A month earlier, Serenity Place in Manchester was so overwhelmed by the number of patients in need of help that the state dissolved the cash-strapped nonprofit and handed its operations to other organizations.

The opioid epidemic has hit New Hampshire particularly hard, especially when it comes to pregnant women with addiction. The rates of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in hospitals in the state have increased nearly fivefold over the past decade.

“What most people probably don’t know is that there are many counties in New Hampshire where literally 1 in 10 pregnancies are to a woman who is struggling with her own substance misuse,” Kuster said.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock said the federal grant will allow its Center for Addiction Recovery in Pregnancy and Parenting (CARPP) to assist seven maternity care facilities across the state in implementing programs to help pregnant and newly postpartum women.

“Our goal is to take our experiences at Dartmouth-Hitchcock over the past five years and help other health care providers to build treatment capacity across the state, so women can receive high quality, evidence-based treatment in their own communities,” said Dr. Julia Frew, director of CARPP and the Moms in Recovery program.

“We think it will be very important in finding access to treatment for a group of women who many times have difficulty disclosing their misuse because of the degree of shame and stigma around substance use and pregnancy,” Frew added.

The health care giant already has a location up and running at its headquarters in Lebanon, and one in Keene at the Cheshire Medical Center. Dartmouth-Hitchcock officials said they hope to go live in May or June with locations in Manchester/Bedford, Nashua, and Berlin. Facilities in Laconia, Littleton and Dover would follow later in the year.

The money is provided through a federal measure known as the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2016. New Hampshire’s congressional delegation fought hard to pass the legislation, which will hand out $1 billion to the states over a two-year period.

The grant for Dartmouth-Hitchcock was the first major funding from the law to reach the Granite State. Kuster said she was thrilled “to see those funds finally emerging and being put to great use here in New Hampshire.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen also expressed optimism about the funding.

“This grant is a good example of how federal resources can make a critical difference at the state and local level,” she said in a statement.

The federal money will be distributed to Dartmouth-Hitchcock through a contract with the state Department of Health and Human Services that was approved last month by the state’s Executive Council.

The state’s congressional delegation is now fighting for an additional $6 billion in funding to address the drug crisis in a federal budget deal to keep the government running for the next two years.

“This infusion of new resources is an important step forward. But there’s much more work to do,” Shaheen said.

And Kuster echoed the sentiment that the fight for solutions isn’t over.

“Our concern is that there are not enough resources,” she said.

The scarcity of resources was evident Tuesday, when Hope for N.H. Recovery, which offers recovering addicts avenues for support and sober activities to help prevent relapse, announced the closure of four of its five centers across the state. Officials with the nonprofit said it’s been without state aid since the start of the fiscal year last July.

The organization had been counting on a blended funding stream from the state as well as from local businesses, organizations and individuals. Officials said that funding stream didn’t materialize for its locations in Franklin, Claremont, Berlin and Concord, but it did in Manchester, where a Hope for N.H. center will remain open.

Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday that the state’s been working with Hope for N.H. Recovery “for quite some time.”

“My hope is that we come forward with a contract in the very near future and then provide them some additional resources to help keep serving the communities that they serve,” Sununu said. “We obviously hope that we can provide some means to give them a little bit of relief and hopefully keep more access open across the state.”

The governor said a lot of nonprofits are now adjusting their models.

“A lot of money came up pretty fast. It was a crisis that hit this state pretty fast. Everyone tried a lot of different things, and that was probably the appropriate thing to do,” Sununu said. “Now everyone’s trying to figure out how they can be sustainable for the long term, what their model is. How best they can serve their communities.”