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Emergency Responders Urge Continued Focus on Opioid Crisis in NH

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021   

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Some New Hampshire cities saw more drug overdoses in May than they have since before the pandemic, and advocates are urging policymakers to keep their eye on the ball in fighting the opioid crisis.

Chris Stawasz, Northeast director of government affairs for American Medical Response, which provides ambulance service for Manchester and Nashua, said the rise is concerning, and while the pandemic has rightfully taken a lot of the public health focus, it's critical to maintain support for addiction treatment programs, for example, "Safe Stations," which are firehouses where people seeking recovery can go, and a trained firefighter will connect them with services.

"Some of the other pieces that go along with that are recovery-friendly workplaces," Stawasz explained. "So that people can have a job as they enter recovery, and affordable, safe housing so that people are not going back to the same situations that they were in."

He pointed to data that showed May saw 72 suspected opioid overdoses in Manchester and Nashua alone, more than any other month since June 2019, as well as increased visits to Manchester Safe Stations.

He noted the pandemic has also posed challenges for getting timely treatment and finding a job, when someone dealing with addiction is ready.

Stawasz added more than 40% of overdose patients his company encountered in Manchester had already been given a dose of Narcan, a medicine to treat overdoses in emergency situations.

He contended that means efforts to increase access to Narcan have been working.

"That's a lifesaver, in no uncertain terms," Stawasz asserted. "That's saved, I'm sure, hundreds of lives because of what people have done with that. And we would encourage that to continue."

Stawasz added Narcan is an important resource for family members and loved ones of people dealing with addiction. And he pointed out it is available at local pharmacy chains without a prescription.


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