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Dec 16, 2015 6:06 PM

Landrigan: NH Opioid Task Force agrees on do-it-now list, balking at spending money

CONCORD - After two intense weeks in front of the cameras and behind the scenes, the Opioid Task Force came together on a do-it-now agenda.

They are asking lawmakers on Jan. 21 to put on Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk a bill to make the punishment for illegal use of fentanyl the same as having heroin.

"You need to be able to show this is as dangerous if not more dangerous than heroin,’’ testified Asst. Attorney General James Vara.

A software upgrade for a drug monitoring program, a new member to the state board of medicine and a study into whether to expand the use of life-saving Narcan.

The other action items are to make all health insurers cover substance abuse and drug education in public schools at all grade levels.

"We need to educate our kids at an early stage so we can avoid what’s happening out there right now,’’ said Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, a co-author of that plan.

Now while the governor pushes hard, task force leaders taking it slow on big ticket items costing money.

Let’s break it down: $3 million to expand drug courts, $5 million more for treatment services and getting more cops on the street that’s another $2.5 million.

A ranking Democrat says there’s no reason to wait.

"We’ve got a $31 million surplus, so I’d like to see these funds implemented as soon as possible,’’ says House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff of Penacook.

Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said lawmakers may learn this Friday whether there will be a further delay in releasing a key financial audit for the budget year that ended last June 30.

The GOP message is clear. Governor, show us the money’s there and we’ll move on the rest of your to do list.

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