Gov. Maggie Hassan confirms she will ask the Executive Council for permission to bring lawmakers back into special session Nov. 18 to deal with the opioid crisis.

Nov 3, 2015 2:04 PM

Landrigan: Gov. Maggie Hassan to ask Executive Council to call a special session Nov. 18

CONCORD - Thwarted by Republican legislative leaders, Gov. Maggie Hassan takes her bid for a special session on the drug crisis to the GOP-led Executive Council when it meets in Newport Wednesday.

Hassan released her $11 million blueprint to increase money for treatment, law enforcement and the courts and confirmed she will try to get a majority on the five-person council to approve bringing lawmakers back into session on Nov. 18.

“The heroin and opioid crisis is the most pressing public health and safety challenge facing our state, and we must act quickly to give patients, providers, parents and law enforcement better tools to combat this epidemic,” Governor Hassan said. “Our families, our communities and our state can’t afford to wait until April or May for the comprehensive action.’’

The move puts all the political pressure on Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, who is mounting a GOP campaign to replace Hassan as governor in 2016. Councilor Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord, is waging his own campaign for governor and first raised several months ago the prospect of a special session to deal with action recommendations of the state drug czar.

The New Hampshire Political Report of NH1 News was the first to report several months ago that Hassan privately was lobbying GOP legislative leaders to bring them back into session before the 2016 regular business meet starts in January.

But House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, and Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, both said it made more sense to carefully study and complete the proposals so they can be done correctly early next year.

“This truly is an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ moment for our state, requiring all Granite Staters – from law enforcement officials, firefighters and emergency medical workers, to families, those in recovery, and our judicial and healthcare systems, to local, state and federal government officials – to fight together each and every single day,” Hassan said in a statement.

The two-term Democratic governor enlisted leadership in local law enforcement for her request.

“Members of the Chiefs of Police Association across the state are confronted by the destruction caused by the heroin epidemic every day,” said New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police President Chief Robert Cormier. “With overdose deaths estimated to exceed last year’s unprecedented number, we cannot afford to wait for action. A special session to pass comprehensive substance misuse legislation will provide important support to law enforcement officials across the state.”

Nashua Police Chief Andrew Lavoie also put out a statement in support.

“We are doing everything we can from a law enforcement perspective to push back against drugs and the crimes that addiction is responsible for, and I welcome a special session to consider comprehensive legislation to support our efforts.”

Here’s a summary of some of Hassan’s proposals many of which are similar or identical to those that GOP legislative leaders spelled out last week:

- Ensuring that laws and penalties for the distribution and sale of fentanyl, the major cause of overdose death in 2015, match those for the sale and distribution of heroin;

- Streamlining access to treatment by requiring all insurance companies to use the same evaluation criteria and removing prior authorization requirements in certain cases;

-Requiring the boards governing all prescribers to update their rules by April 1 in order to ensure that patients and providers are warned adequately about the dangers of opioids, that providers are required to follow best prescribing practices, and that prescribers receive appropriate medical education in the best practices on prescribing opioids and pain management;

- Limiting the duration of emergency room opioid prescriptions to ensure that patients receive comprehensive follow-up care from a primary care provider;

- Limiting prescriptions to 34 days or 100 dosage units;

- Mandating greater use of the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program by prescribers and upgrading its technology to ensure that more prescribers can use it in a timely fashion;

- Giving the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of Justice, the authority to develop rules to increase oversight and regulation of pain clinics and methadone clinics to ensure they are acting in line with best practices, and establishing an advisory commission to assist in that effort;

- Adding two members to the Board of Medicine, including a pain management specialist;

Here’s a summary of Hassan’s additional requests for spending to combat substance abuse between now and June 30, 2017:

- $3.1 million to implement a statewide drug court system, with a coordinator based in the judicial branch, providing 50 percent of drug court funding to counties that agree to participate and abide by evidence-based drug court practices and procedures;

- $2 million to the Department of Safety to provide additional law enforcement support to the hardest-hit communities – similar to the grant-funded effort now occurring in Manchester – and to continue to address the backlog in the State Police Forensic Laboratory;

- $800,000 to the Department of Corrections to support probation and parole officers working with hard-hit communities;

- $100,000 to upgrade the technological capabilities of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program;

- $135,000 to add an attorney to the Department of Justice to focus on opioid-related crimes and issues;

- $5 million to the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery to support community-based treatment, prevention and recovery efforts.

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