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Claremont Aims to Help People Struggling with Addiction



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Claremont — A community effort to ensure that people struggling with drug addiction have access to services seems to be having results.

A long-term plan is taking shape for a Claremont drug treatment center that was formerly a branch of Hope for New Hampshire Recovery. And the Legislature has approved a bill that could pave the way for a Claremont needle exchange program to reopen in the fall.

In the wake of the Manchester-based Hope for Recovery’s announcement in February that it would no longer operate the Claremont peer recovery center, a group of city, state and nonprofit community leaders have put together a plan that will allow services to continue in the city, with the help of state funding.

“When Hope for Recovery made the announcement, we as a community said, ‘This can’t stand,’ ” Mayor Charlene Lovett said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We know we need these services and they’re not being provided elsewhere.”

The Claremont recovery center, which offers peer support for those struggling with addiction through group sessions and one-on-one counseling, has been operating with bridge funding from sources such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Valley Regional Hospital and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation since Hope for Recovery stopped supporting the center’s operations this past winter.

The Claremont recovery center, now dubbed “The Center for Recovery Resources,” is operating under the umbrella of TLC Family Resource Center, a Pleasant Street-based organization that offers support for children, youth and families.

The center will become a formal program of TLC beginning July 1, TLC Executive Director Maggie Monroe-Cassel said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Harbor Homes — a Nashua-based nonprofit — would implement a state contract with the center, which also would begin on July 1, Executive Councilor Joe Kenney said in an email on Tuesday. The nonprofit, according to its website, provides affordable housing, health care, employment and job training to low-income, homeless and disabled people in New Hampshire.

Under the contract, Monroe-Cassel said the Claremont center will become one of 10 Harbor Homes clients around the state that the nonprofit oversees and supports.

For now, the center continues to operate in its former site, 169 Main St., a building owned by Hope for Recovery’s executive director, Melissa Crews, and her husband, Andy. But a move is planned next month to “an easily accessible downtown location,” Monroe-Cassel said. Once in the new location, she said she expects the center will expand its hours.

Given that a move is in the works, Monroe-Cassel said the best way to reach the center is to contact its director Wayne Miller via email at wayne@tlcfamilyrc.org ​or by phone at 802-294-2755.

“I am looking forward to developing this new space over the coming months,” Miller said in a TLC press release issued on Tuesday. “The Claremont community deserves quality and compassionate care and that is what I intend to deliver.”

State funding of $150,000 for the Claremont center is expected to be considered by the Executive Council next month, Kenney, whose district includes most of the Upper Valley, said.

Kenney said he plans to support the Harbor Homes contract when it comes before the council. “It’s important for citizens in recovery to have that level of peer support once they come out (of) a treatment situation,” he said in his email.

Plans for the center beyond June 30, 2019, are still in the works, Kenney said.

“The Commissioner of (the Department of Health and Human Services) is working on a long-term, sustainable approach to support peer support services beyond FY 2019,” Kenney wrote. “More on (that) down the road.”

Separately, Claremont community leaders also are hopeful that a change to state law will pave the way for a Claremont needle exchange — which was forced to close last year because of its proximity to a school — to reopen in the fall.

“We don’t want to see this thing go by the wayside,” Lovett said of the needle exchange. But city officials’ “hands are tied until the law is changed.”

A group of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College students started Claremont’s needle exchange, known as Project 439, last summer. The exchange, which operated out of the Claremont Soup Kitchen on Central Street, provided people who use intravenous drugs with clean needles, the overdose reversal drug naloxone and information about addiction treatment.

Project 439, which also collected dirty needles, was forced to close in October, after city officials decided the program’s location violated state law.

Under state law, they determined needle exchanges cannot be located within drug-free school zones, which are defined in state statute as being within 1,000 feet of a school or a property used by a school.

A bill, SB357, that would allow local school boards to determine whether they would be willing to permit a needle exchange program to be located and operate within a drug-free school zone passed both the House and the Senate this session.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican state Sen. Bob Giuda — whose district includes the Upper Valley towns of Dorchester, Haverhill, Piermont, Orange and Orford — said this tweak to the original legislation authorizing needle exchanges, which became law last year, simply made sense. He said, in a Tuesday phone interview, that lawmakers “trust local authorities to make the right decision.”

Though the Claremont School Board has not yet discussed the needle exchange, Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin said in an email, “Once the bill is approved by the governor, I anticipate the needle exchange issue will be reviewed by the Claremont School Board.”

The new law would come into effect 60 days after it is signed. An email to Gov. Chris Sununu’s office was not returned.

Valley News Staff Writer Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603- 727-3213.

Correction

SAU 6 Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin said on Tuesday that the Claremont School Board had not discussed a bill passed by the New Hampshire Legislature that authorizes local school boards to allow needle-exchange programs within drug-free school zones but “… once the bill is approved by the governor, I anticipate the needle exchange issue will be reviewed by the Claremont School Board.” A portion of that quotation was inadvertently omitted in an earlier version of this story.