Saturday February 23, 2013

CONCORD, N.H. -- Cutting down on alcohol, prescription drug and marijuana abuse in New Hampshire, as well as helping those in need seek treatment are the main goals of a five-year plan to reduce substance abuse, a governor’s leadership commission announced Friday.

Speakers stressed the need for a multidisciplinary approach that includes government agencies, policy makers, treatment specialists and the criminal justice system.

"This is our biggest problem of the day," Attorney General Michael Delaney said. "Through collective action we have the chance to make a collective impact."

He said that many of the initiatives in the plan are already being pursued, such as implementing a prescription drug monitoring program to reduce doctor shopping -- patients filling multiple prescriptions with different physicians. The state is also looking to expand drug courts and explore new rehabilitation options.

Richard Ober, president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, wondered how, despite ranking high in income, education and overall health, New Hampshire still has one of the highest rates substance abuse in the nation. He said New Hampshire is one of the most livable places in the U.S., but if the state doesn’t tackle the issue, he’s not sure that will be the case in 10 years.

Ober said his organization is ready to back the plan with its time, network and money. The group has committed $12 million over 10 years toward substance abuse prevention strategies.

"Over time we want to know we have a partner in government," Ober said, "This is an issue that shouldn’t rely so heavily on philanthropy."

He and others called on the state to take money in the alcohol and drug abuse prevention fund -- made up of five percent of state liquor store profits and averaging $8.5 million per year -- and use it for its designated purpose. The legislature routinely diverts much of that money back into the general fund.