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Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavenaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a two-fold problem.

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Granite Staters Protest AG Sessions' Approach to Combating Opioid Abuse

Protesters were part of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' visit to Concord. They say dismantling the Affordable Care Act will make it harder to fight opioid abuse. (Granite State Progress)
Protesters were part of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' visit to Concord. They say dismantling the Affordable Care Act will make it harder to fight opioid abuse. (Granite State Progress)
July 13, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was greeted by protesters in Concord, where he spoke with law enforcement agencies about the opioid crisis. Outside the federal courthouse, healthcare, recovery and criminal justice reform advocates carried signs that read "Healthcare is a Human Right," "Healthcare Not Prisons," and "Beds Not Cells."

They want Sessions to defend the Affordable Care Act and its requirement to cover people with preexisting conditions – which he's already said he won't do.

Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director with the group Granite State Progress, says the Trump administration is trying every angle to dismantle the ACA.

"And that is really dangerous because people need healthcare coverage, but particularly for the opioid crisis, to have access to substance-use disorder treatment has been the number one tool that we have used to combat that crisis here in New Hampshire," says Hawkins.

Sessions was in Concord on a tour to announce what he calls "Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge" or SOS. He is ordering prosecutors in 10 areas with some of the highest overdose death rates – including New Hampshire – to, in his words, "systematically and relentlessly prosecute every single synthetic opioid case."

The Justice Department has refused to defend the preexisting conditions coverage mandate in a lawsuit by Republican states that claim it is unconstitutional. Hawkins says the provision is needed not only for those who seek opioid addiction treatment, but for access to health insurance later in life.

"The Trump administration and AG Sessions is simply looking to have more failed policies on the war on drugs,” says Hawkins. “What we actually need are health care and treatment for substance-use disorder, and we know that that is going to be the best path forward. We are tired of broken promises and failed policies that don't actually help Granite Staters or other Americans."

More than half of Granite State residents, or 572,000, have preexisting medical conditions. Nationwide, more than 130 million Americans could be affected by changing the coverage requirement.

Linda Barr, Public News Service - NH