Sununu and HHS Secy. Price teaming up to hear directly about NH's drug crisis war
CONCORD – President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary heads to New Hampshire on Wednesday, to hear directly from Granite Staters who are on the front lines in the fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who’s said battling the epidemic is a top priority, is scheduled to host Secy. Tom Price at a 1:30pm listening session in the Executive Council chambers at the Statehouse. The two are expected to hear from recovery advocates, law enforcement officials, treatment and prevention specialists, survivors, and affected family members. A news conference is scheduled to take place following the listening session.
“Secretary Price and the Trump Administration understand that it is state and local policymakers, advocates, first responders, treatment centers, faith based organizations, good neighbors, and many more who have responded to help their communities in this time of great need. With this in mind, Secretary Price will participate in a listening session with representatives from these groups to learn about how the federal government can best support local initiatives and hear what is working and what is not,” said a release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The swing through New Hampshire is the latest stop on Price’s tour through states particularly hard hit by the drug crisis. The HHS secretary was in Michigan and West Virginia on Tuesday. Price kicked off the tour last month in Ohio.
The Granite State’s been particularly hard hit by the epidemic. Overdose deaths in New Hampshire have soared in recent years, with nearly 500 deaths in 2016. And a new report released Monday indicated that drug and alcohol misuse cost the state’s economy $2.36 billion annually.
More than half of Granite Staters questioned (53%) in a new UNH Survey Center poll said the heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis is the most important problem facing the state. Jobs and the economy, at 11%, was a distant second.
Then-presidential candidate Trump often talked about the drug crisis during his many campaign stops in the Granite State in 2015 and 2016. In an interview with NH1 News in Manchester in August of last year, Trump said “I promised the people of New Hampshire that I would stop the heroin from pouring in on the southern border. And I will stop it.”
But New Hampshire’s top Democrats accuse the President of breaking his promise because they say the congressional GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare that Trump backs will weaken the funding for federal programs the Granite State uses to battle the drug epidemic.
“In dozens of visits to New Hampshire during the campaign, President Trump promised to provide treatment to end the opioid crisis, but this House bill is a broken promise to our communities that are fighting this epidemic with everything they have and it couldn’t come at a worse time,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said at a news conference in Concord on Monday.
“I hope that something substantial can come out of Wednesday’s visit because that the Secretary needs to hear from us in New Hampshire is what people are facing,” Shaheen said in regards to the stop by Price.
“I think the Secretary needs to hear very directly from people in New Hampshire about what they’re experiencing,” Shaheen added.
Fellow Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan, who joined Shaheen at the news conference, urged that Granite Staters tell Price “how it is that they developed a substance use disorder because one of the impressions I have as a new senator is that a lot of people in other parts of the country where the epidemic hasn’t hit as hard don’t really understand how people can develop this disorder and the role that prescribing of opioids has played in disorder and I think it is really important for people to say.”
“We need people to tell those stories” to Price, Hassan added.