Ahead Of Trump's Visit, N.H. Officials Speak Up About Opioid Epidemic

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President Trump speaks during the White House Opioid Summit in the White House on March 1. Trump visits New Hampshire on Monday. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Trump speaks during the White House Opioid Summit in the White House on March 1. Trump visits New Hampshire on Monday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump on Monday visits Manchester, New Hampshire, where's he's expected to announce a new plan to battle the nationwide opioid crisis.

Ahead of Trump's visit, local officials are concerned about how he will address the epidemic.

One of the stops in the Queen City might be the Central Fire Station. Manchester Fire Department Chief Daniel Goonan knows firsthand how big his city’s opioid problem is.

"The more you become involved with this, the bigger you realize the crisis is,” Goonan said.

In May 2016, Manchester Fire started what’s called a Safe Station program. Those suffering from drug addiction are provided a path to treatment without worry of arrest or judgment. Goonan says it’s helped about 3,300 people so far from all over the state. He’s even been invited to the White House several times to talk about Safe Station. He expects Trump will make a visit to Central Fire Station in Manchester and he has a good idea of what will be on the agenda.

“I think he’s going to like to talk about some of the good things the city of Manchester is doing, including Safe Station," Goonan said. "I think it’s a good model, going forward, and I think the White House recognizes that.”

As far as any new policy announcements from the president, Goonan has one major wish.

“I'm hoping that’s going to open up some funding avenues for the city of Manchester and states like New Hampshire that’s been, you know, probably as hard hit as anywhere in the country," he said.

A State Hit Hard By Opioid Addiction

New Hampshire has been one of the most affected states in the national opioid crisis. The Granite State had the third highest rate of deaths from drug overdose in 2016, according to the CDC. Opioids were the major contributor.

While the state has invested millions of dollars in treatment and recovery, there have been some recent setbacks. Last month, Hope for New Hampshire, the state's largest drug recovery provider, announced it would close most of its centers, citing lack of funds.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig says these challenges have her looking to the president for more dollars too.

“I would hope that he’ll allocate federal funds to help us continue helping those who need it most. We’ve seen treatment and recovery providers in New Hampshire close their doors due to the lack of funding," Craig said. "So, you know, in this time of great need, Manchester needs more than promises. We really need some action.”

There is federal money on the table, but it's still unclear how it will be spent.

Calling For Federal Action

Last month New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan announced they helped secure $6 billion in the federal budget agreement to help fight the opioid crisis. Hassan and Shaheen say they’re working to make sure the money is prioritized for states hardest hit, like New Hampshire.

But when asked last month about involvement from the White House, Hassan offered this criticism.

“My experience has been that when we have been at the White House or members of the administration have been in public, they have given lip service to the importance of the opioid epidemic," she said. "But then privately, they have done nothing to advocate for an increase in funds to really help us attack this epidemic.”

Trump’s previous comments have made it clear he’s aware of New Hampshire’s opioid struggle. On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump made promises to Granite Staters that help was on the way. Last year the president famously referred to the state as a “drug-infested den.” That offhand remark caused an uproar in New Hampshire.

Whatever Trump announces during his visit to Manchester, lawmakers locally and in Washington are saying action on the opioid crisis is running late.

This story comes via the New England News Collaborative.

This segment aired on March 19, 2018.



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