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Health officials urged to request treatment program dollars


CONCORD - Adults with alcohol and substance abuse problems are ending up in county jails because they do not receive treatment, Senate budget writers were told Tuesday.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Morse, R-Salem, urged Health and Human Services officials to make their case for greater funding, saying he would rather put state money into treatment and prevention rather than jails.

Under the 2012-2013 operating budget, Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services programs were slashed, some by more than $2 million.

As a result, programs are being consolidated with others in the department such as public health and some are being managed by other offices, officials said Tuesday.

Bureau administrator Joe Harding said funding for treatment contracts declined from $3.8 million in 2011 to $1.7 million in 2012 under the Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, Intervention and Treatment Program.

Officials lost contact with 15,000 at-risk clients and 130 fewer people are being served, he said.

When asked what happens to these people, Harding said they are waiting longer to access services.

Under a 2001 law, a percentage of alcohol profits are to go to prevention and treatment programs, however, lawmakers have used the money for other purposes nearly since the program began and continue to do so including in the proposed 2014-2015 budget.

The fund produced about $9 million this year.

Unlike other states, New Hampshire does not receive federal help for treatment and prevention services under the Medicaid program.

Department of Health and Human Services Community Based Care Division Director Nancy Rollins said the state wants to include treatment programs once Medicaid eligibility is expanded under the Affordable Care Act.

She said the state has not included treatment programs in its Medicaid Plan because there are not that many eligible people seeking help, but that would increase with the expansion.

Senate Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, asked Harding if he asked to have more money for the treatment and prevention programs and he replied "the message was there is not funding available to ask for additional services."

Rollins said the county corrections system bears the brunt of the first-time offenders with substance abuse issues.

Others with long-term problems end up in the state corrections system, she noted, particularly in the women's prison.

Several senators noted they would rather spend money on treatment and prevention in community settings, which are more successful.

Hospital issues

The committee also heard from New Hampshire Hospital Chief Executive Officer Robert MacLeod, who explained the hospital's plan to reduce the number of children and adults waiting in hospital emergency rooms for treatment.

He said 12 new beds will be available in May to help relieve the pressure on hospitals. He said the hospital has 152 beds and they are always full.

MacLeod also proposes expanding the admission area to include 10 beds for people to be assessed. They may not need to be admitted, but the patients could be held there for a day, be treated and then released back into the community.

The priority will be children, who he said are difficult to manage in emergency rooms.

Rollins said the plan is to increase community services so there will be less of a need to treat people at New Hampshire Hospital. She said her department views the 12 new beds as temporary.

The Senate Finance Committee will continue to hear from state departments through next week, and then will begin making adjustments to the $11 billion two-year operating budget the House sent to the Senate last month.

grayno@unionleader.com

        

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