State money saves some Hope for N.H. Recovery centers; Concord facility still set to close

  • The logo for the Hope Recovery Center is branded on 85. S. State St. and a sign on the front door simply reads: “OPENING SOON.” GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Two weeks after New Hampshire’s largest drug recovery organization announced the closure of four facilities, the Executive Council has stepped in with financial relief that will keep the centers open in some cities.

Councilors voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a $600,000 state contract with the organization Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, giving a boost that will allow it to stay operational.

But with that new contract came some tough choices. The extra funding will keep the organization’s facilities open in Franklin, Berlin and Manchester. But Concord and Claremont’s locations will remain shut, according to the organization.

Now, treatment organizations are scrambling to fill the gap in services. In Claremont, the community and city government have banded together to create a replacement service – Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has already thrown in $20,000, according to the Valley News.

In Concord, there have been no such major donations, and the closure is sure to have an impact.

“This is definitely a loss for the community,” said Jenny Connor-Belcourt, director of the Salvation Army McKenna House in Concord, which takes in people in recovery. “Especially given the dire need for recovery for so many people in our state.”

The crisis first came to light in late February, when Hope for N.H. Recovery initially announced the closure of four of its five facilities, citing financial troubles. The nonprofit, which helps recovering drug users and recently incarcerated people transition back into society, has faced blistering scrutiny in the last year for alleged unscrupulous management practices. An investigation by the Attorney General last year found no criminal conduct, but the accusations hung over the organization, and the governor and Executive Council chose to withhold funding while the investigation continued.

Despite the controversies, the announced closures last month set off outcry. Residents in Berlin and Claremont have mobilized with petitions and meetings to fight for solutions.

“Obviously we’re very worried,” said Peter Evers, CEO of Riverbend Community Mental Health in Concord. “We’ve been connected to Hope for a while, ever since they started, and there is obviously a great connection between the treatment part of services and recovery.”

But Hope for N.H. leaders said they are optimistic the city’s remaining network of providers have the resources to cover any slack.

Hope Executive Director Melissa Crews said Concord has stronger support networks than other cities on the list, and that intake had been relatively low – one reason the organization decided not to press for continued funding.

“Concord has a very large 12-step community that supports a lot of the people early in recovery,” she said.

And Evers said his organization has been in talks with Crews and is hoping to step up to meet demand. Riverbend already employs certified peer support specialists and will aim to absorb existing patients while it scales up its own operations, he said.

And while the organization will no longer operate in town, the facility itself, on South State Street, will remain open for voluntary services such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, Crews said.

Still, questions remain for the organization’s future. Despite voting unanimously Wednesday, some executive councilors voiced concerns about Hope for N.H.’s rocky history, calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to exercise tighter oversight as it moves ahead. Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, questioned whether the state should seek a new provider altogether.

For his part, DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said the contract the council passed Wednesday makes the best of a tricky situation.

“The state can’t force any provider to maintain a particular location, (but) we think that the money in this contract today is going to be critical to maintaining the services in those three communities,” he said.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)