NRSC - ICYMI: Union Leader Editorial: Gov. Hassan is reading: Where have she, 'drug czar' been?



New Hampshire Union Leader
August 16, 2015

We are glad to see that Gov. Maggie Hassan can read the papers, but why does it take stories by the Union Leader and Concord Monitor, as well as a push from U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, to get the governor to suddenly realize that red tape is hampering the effort to deal with the heroin crisis in New Hampshire?

Why wasn’t her much ballyhooed “drug czar’’ already all over this problem, in which substance abuse treatment centers are confronting expensive new federal regulations?

The governor is all for expanding Medicaid coverage, some of which will pay for drug treatment. But she apparently didn’t know that the money comes with strings. And that is strange, since state Drug and Alcohol Services Director Joe Harding said last week that the treatment centers have known for two years that the strings were coming.

Or, as Harding put it, “With the increased resources come increased requirements.’’

But it was only after our stories and Sen. Ayotte’s request of the feds to ease those requirements (some as silly as precise amounts of floor space per room) that Gov. Hassan rushed out to announce a review of licensing requirements.

Only the week before, Hassan and her “drug czar’’ had announced a multi-point plan to deal with the heroin crisis. Most of the points were already known to the public. 

One was nearly laughable since it recommended expansion of drug courts even while Hassan was turning down flat a request from Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas to help fund one here.

One recommendation was to “Expand Treatment Options.’’ 

No mention therein of the red tape that may be holding back that expansion. Just nice phrases about this being a “collaborative effort between the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, treatment providers and others. Report by March 2016.’’

Which leads to another question. The state has a Director of Drug and Alcohol Services. Does it also need the “Governor’s Senior Director of Substance Misuse and Behavioral Health (a.k.a. Drug Czar)?’’