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Nov 11, 2016 5:20 PM

Officials: NH drug deaths are lower than projected so far in 2016


BEDFORD - Officials at a summit for medical providers that focused on opiate addiction and the state's drug crisis said drug deaths are down compared to last year.

The sold out 2nd Annual Catholic Medical Center Summit on Treatment of Opiate-Dependent Patients and Pain brought dozens of medical providers together to hear from professionals about the status of the drug crisis and what's being done to stem it.

As of Tuesday, the state's Medical Examiner confirmed 302 overdoses in 2016, with 98 cases pending.

"We have seen a reduction in overdoses and overdose deaths despite the experts predicting an increase," said Chris Hickey, the EMS Director for the Manchester Fire Department.

The projected total for this year is 488.

Hickey and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas credit the Safe Station program for making a difference in the Queen City.

Attorney General Joe Foster and Drug Czar James Vara told the crowd several steps have been taken. Approximately $30 million has been this year on treatment and prevention, there's a crisis hotline, approximately 12,000 Narcan kits have been distributed and lawmakers made the prescription monitoring program a requirement for doctors.

Foster and Vara said they are optimistic and said the state is moving forward, but they'd like to see more money and efforts from different agencies.

Vara said one common complaint is that the state's substance abuse job force needs to be more competitive.

"I'll hear from people with their master's degree making 40,000 dollars or 35,000 dollars," he said. "We have to incentivize this field or else people won't be inclined to do it."

Vara also would like to see a clean needle exchange program.

Currently, New Hampshire is the only state in New England without a clean needle program.

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