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Mar 10, 2016 4:50 PM

Landrigan: NH Senate approves spending bill to battle drug epidemic, but is it enough?

CONCORD - The state’s fight against the opioid epidemic again comes down to a question of dollars and cents.

"A plan without funding is a wish and we need to put real resources and tackle this in a comprehensive way; it is ripping through our communities. People want action,’’ Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, of Dalton, said.

And senators got a little testy on Thursday.

"Just money will not solve problems. We have increased our commitment from four and a half to $84 million. We’ve got money we haven’t even begun to spend yet,’’ said Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford.

Senate Republicans want to spend $3 million and have the money come from the existing budget. Governor Maggie Hassan and Senate Democrats want $5 million in new money.

"It’s no silver bullet but no question if we don’t put resources behind those investments, we aren’t going to solve this issue,’’ Woodburn said.

The Senate’s leading Republican tries to keep the focus not on today’s dispute but on a future compromise.

"It’s not a disagreement; it’s ensuring that we’re solving a problem, we’re protecting the precious funds that we have. So let’s work together, take a deep breath,’’ said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro.

The Senate passed along to its Finance Committee for more review a measure to spend the $3 million to hire a new drug prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office and create long-term substance abuse recovery programs in all 10 counties.

The amended bill does not include spending to open drug courts across the state; that’s in a different measure the Senate earlier passed and is pending in the House.

This fight increasingly is about the US Senate race because Senate Republicans maintain Governor Maggie Hassan has not been a competent manager.

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