Sheriff Doug Dutile: Hassan bill offers solution to opioid crisis

For the Monitor
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

These days, you can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV without seeing something about the opioid epidemic.

Between 2011 and 2016, opioid overdose deaths in New Hampshire more than doubled, making our opioid-induced death rate the second highest in the nation. Our communities are reeling, our children and families are hurting, and people across the state remain desperate for a solution.

Drug abuse isn’t just an urban problem. Even New Hampshire’s smallest towns are feeling the impact. As a law enforcement officer, I’ve witnessed how powerful, dangerous drugs like fentanyl have affected Granite Staters from all walks of life, leading to increased mortality and decreased workforce productivity. But I’ve also seen how a comprehensive approach to treatment can truly lead people to recovery, particularly in criminal justice systems where we’ve made great strides in offering treatment to some of New Hampshire’s most vulnerable and high-risk individuals.

Numerous treatments have proven effective in helping people who are struggling with addiction. Sadly, patients are not always educated on the full range of available treatments. This problem stems from the fact that many providers offer only one form of treatment, instead of putting every evidence-based option on the table. This one-size-fits-all approach can be detrimental and discouraging for patients and their families.

Sen. Maggie Hassan has introduced bipartisan legislation – the Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act – to address this problem and give patients access to the full range of evidence-based treatment services, including all three medications approved by the FDA to treat opioid addiction and counseling.

While dozens of bills are aimed at ending the opioid crisis, the CORCs Act is unique in that it creates a nationwide model for comprehensive, patient-focused treatment and recovery. When a patient walks into a certified health care facility, whether it be in Manchester or North Haverhill, they should be offered all evidence-based treatment options. Sen. Hassan’s legislation will help ensure this is the case.

My colleagues in law enforcement and the criminal justice system have an important role to play in combating drug abuse, and Sen. Hassan has been an unwavering supporter of our efforts. We’ve seen how successful medication-assisted treatment can be for incarcerated individuals. But Granite Staters shouldn’t have to go to jail to get clean, and the opioid crisis cannot be solved by law enforcement alone.

Encouraging an individualized approach to treatment will help more people struggling with addiction to get the help they need, and the Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act is an important step in the right direction. The road to end this epidemic is a long and challenging one, but with a unified effort from law enforcement, health care providers and public officials, I’m confident we can get there.

(Doug Dutile is a Grafton County sheriff with more than 36 years of law enforcement experience.)