The States of New Hampshire and Vermont both admit they are in the midst of an opioid epidemic, with overdose deaths in New Hampshire predicted to top 400 by the end of 2015 and Vermont communities scrambling to curb the related crime devastating numerous communities.
Both states have taken significant steps to begin to bring this epidemic under control, though there is likely more that still needs to be done.
Vermont is implementing a comprehensive strategy that includes increased access to treatment, especially medication assisted treatment. Their plan also includes distributing Naloxone, a medication which can temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose allowing time for emergency medical care to intervene.
In response to the opioid crisis in New Hampshire, the state has created the campaign Anyone.Anytime.NH to educate the public and professionals about addiction. This campaign is designed to help anyone affected by this crisis, including people experiencing addiction, parents, family and friends of those experiencing addiction and health care, safety, and other system staff working with people who may be experiencing addiction.
New Hampshire authorities are also working to make Narcan (aka Naloxone) more available. Regional public health networks, PHC included, are hosting community events that offer training in the use of Narcan and provide free Narcan kits to individuals who are concerned about someone’s opioid use. Some pharmacies, using standing orders from a physician, are able to provide Narcan to anyone who wants it. First Responders in New Hampshire are looking for more and better training on how to direct victims to treatment and recovery services.
In New Hampshire, the NH Heroin Task Force spent the last few months of 2015 developing a series of proposals intended to address the crisis. Some of the proposals relate to increasing criminal penalties for dealing, improving the Prescription Medication Monitoring Program, removing insurance barriers to accessing treatment, and many more. Many of these proposals must still be considered by the legislature in the form of bills and consideration will begin early in 2016.
For anyone concerned about heroin and other opioids in the communities or families, there are resources available – albeit not enough – and people should be encouraged to reach out for information and help. In New Hampshire, start at Anyone.Anytime. In Vermont, start at the HealthVermont website.