"Illicit drugs are cheaper, deadlier, and easier to acquire than ever. We can’t even keep them out of our prisons. There are more people in the criminal justice system on drug-related charges than ever before; most of them live with mental health and substance use disorders. An unprecedented 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year. It is often stated there are three legs to the stool when addressing problematic substance use: Prevention, Treatment, and Law Enforcement. As most of our resources are continually tethered to Law Enforcement, the balanced stool has yet to be built. Officials are quick to claim that ‘we can’t arrest our way out of a public health crisis’. Now we must put those words to work. We must make NH’s policies and practices meet people who struggle ‘where they are at.’ We must make evidence-based treatments easier to access than illicit drugs. We must finally invest wholeheartedly in addiction prevention systems and programs that use tools of engagement, rather than of fear, to keep our youth healthy. Let’s keep people out of needless incarceration, and let’s break the addiction cycle by increasing access to vital elements of recovery: Safe housing, gainful employment, and social recovery supports. New Hampshire can save money, lives, and heartache by fitting our approach to real needs in real time. I've seen firsthand the effect that such a shift has with real, local people in need. Recovery is not elusive; we need only to lead with compassion and evidence.
"(additional comments): I'm a person who has been in long term recovery for over 27 years, and I dedicate much of my time working with multiple state and non profit groups to lessen the harms of substance use to the children and adults in New Hampshire. It can best be addressed by primarily treating it as a public health issue. Allowing evidenced based strategies that reduce the harms associated with substance use and by removing barriers allowing people to get help. Encouraging health plans to educate providers on best practices for treating pain and providing non opioid alternatives when appropriate. Opioids certainly have a role in pain management and we shouldn't be making it harder for some people to get the medicines they need. However, the United States has about 5% of the world's population and we consumes around 80% of the world's opioids. The most cost effective use of our resources should be directed more towards prevention and treatment. Law enforcement has a roll, but we have more people in prison than ever before. We have been fighting this from the supply side for years and we need to focus more on the demand. People need to be engaged at not only the state but also the local level to build an ecosystem providing solutions. Working across multiple sectors is needed. Referral programs from law enforcement can direct people to local agencies and non profits who are willing to help. Drug courts are also a tool to lower re-arrest rates/ recidivism and get people treatment. Successful participants in the Strafford County drug court are much less likely to reoffend (crime goes down) and more likely to be a healthier member of our community. Providing training for first responders and people who use drugs helps lower death rates and can be a tool to connecting people to recovery supports. Increasing awareness of state laws that encourage intervention. Passing ordinances that allow for safe disposal of unused drugs and paraphernalia. The costs of this problem to the New Hampshire economy are well over 2 billion dollars a year (healthcare, lost wages, lost productivity, less tax revenue, costs for child and family services, enforcement, incarceration, increased welfare costs, and most importantly the loss of life and misery). We can save money and lives by helping to prevent diseases like HIV and hepatitis through harm reduction practices. Healthcare costs can be saved, productivity will go up and crimes can be decreased. It is not simply a matter of spending more money; it is a matter of implementing proven, cost effective policies and practices that work."
Source: Citizens Count Issue Survey 2018