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Jul 27, 2015 6:38 PM

Landrigan: Hassan fights to keep financing for NH drug czar alive


CONCORD - It’s a pivotal week for the ongoing war of words between Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Republican-led Legislature over the state’s commitment to battling the heroin epidemic.

The state's drug czar gets chilly reviews from individual police chiefs and some Republican lawmakers have seen enough to want him gone while the governor appeals for an end to partisan infighting.

Hassan was hoping drug czar Jack Wozmak’s 22-point plan he offered last week would rally support behind him.

"We need to stem that tide. That requires everyone working together and taking pot shots at each other is not going to be helpful,’’ Hassan warned.

But police chiefs in Manchester, Nashua, Concord and Salem have said they lacked direct access to him.

Wozmak told nh1 he’s met with more than 100 stakeholders.

"We will continue to reach out and do what we need to do. This is a huge problem and there is an army of people working on it and we will do everything we can to forge those relationships,’’ Wozmak said.

Hassan is getting a lukewarm reception to her request that house and senate budget writers approve on Wednesday a New Hampshire Charitable Foundation grant to keep paying Wozmak’s his $90,000 a year salary past July 1.

The governor brought him on last February to identify gaps in care and recommend policy changes.

"I would rather see money go directly towards programs and helping people whether it’s prevention, treatment, recovery or intervention as opposed to paying for another staff person,’’ said Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, is another member of the Legislative Fiscal Committee and has already decided Wozmak has not done enough and should quit.

"It’s clear that Mr. Wozmak is the wrong person to coordinate the state’s response to the substance abuse crisis,’’ Sanborn said in a statement.

Hassan maintains the drug czar is uniquely qualified on prevention and treatment, the two most important features of a battle plan to fight the heroin epidemic.

"We can’t arrest our way out of the substance abuse problem,’’ Hassan said.


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