US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in NH to tackle opioid crisis
NASHUA - Two men who grew up in the shadows of their parents' addictions shook hands in a New Hampshire courthouse - one, a recent graduate of a drug court program and the other, the U.S. secretary of agriculture.
Secretary Tom Vilsack is leading an Obama administration initiative on rural opioid abuse.
"My mom struggled with prescription drug addiction and alcoholism," Vilsack said at round table discussion in Nashua.
Now, he's heading the 15 federal agency effort focused on the heroin and prescription crisis. Approximately 85 people die of an overdose each day in the U.S., Vilsack said.
The USDA is working to expand access to drug abuse treatment in rural areas. Part of that included a $1 million grant to Dartmouth-Hitchcock in New Hampshire.
Monday, Vilsack met with members of the Hillsborough County drug court program, which held its first graduation ceremony last week.
Among those he met with was graduate Chris Overka, who described shooting up heroin with his dad at age 15 and a life a crime that he says was stopped by the support and treatment he received through the program.
Vilsack said federal agencies are getting creative with existing programs to help the opioid crisis. One idea is to designate a percentage of current federally funded housing for people in drug courts that need a drug-free place to live.
"We've actually financed several thousand homes and multiple family housing projects in the state of New Hampshire since I've been secretary," Vilsack said. "So the question is whether or not we can find a creative way to use our housing resources through rural development to try to address the need for transitional housing."
Tuesday, Vilsack will be the keynote speaker at the Governor's Summit on Substance Misuse in Manchester.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.