New Hampshire, the site of many of President Trump’s forums on addiction and policy updates, has found an unlikely ally in the struggle against addiction in CVS Pharmacy, one of the largest pharmacies in the state. The efforts are part of an ongoing strategy announced last year as an effort to become a partner in the fight against opioid addiction.
New Hampshire has a population of about 1.3 million people, and there is a massive drug problem shared by the communities across the state. In fact, the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in its first year alone reported that 108,398 patients filled 16,285,259 prescriptions for Schedule II medications – 80% of these prescriptions were for pain relievers, such as fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone.
New Hampshire Needs a Lot of Help
53 percent of adults in a New Hampshire poll last year agreed drugs were the biggest problem facing the state. It was the first time that one single issue won out over others, yet the problem has not yet been abating. Many have attributed the problem to the fact that although a considerably affluent state, New Hampshire is raging with opioid addiction. The same state has little to no income or sales tax. This means, of course, that there are few funds the state can make available to help the most vulnerable people get the drug treatment services they desperately need. Mental health and public health programs are minimal.
New Hampshire is also lacking needle programs (they are allowed to operate, but the state offered no funding when this became law) and has a shortage of providers who are permitted to prescribe medication-based treatment. (There are only seven doctors who are allowed to prescribe Suboxone, in the entire state, versus nationwide where there are 15 or so per 100,000 people.) Many of New Hampshire’s laws lean toward small government and a libertarian mindset in the spirit of the state slogan “Live Free or Die.”
Drug Disposal Programs
CVS has installed drug disposal has units inside two CVS Pharmacy locations in New Hampshire to help facilitate disposal of unused opioids and other medications. Research has shown that many people first try opiates as teens and even preteens by taking pills out of medicine cabinets. It’s a fact of life that when young people are experimenting with alcohol and drugs, they may be tempted to steal medications from their elders. This program can help adults be more responsible about disposing of unused medicines in general.
Contributing to Treatment Efforts
CVS Health also announced it is distributing $60,000 to programs that address and prevent opioid abuse in coordination with SOS Recovery Community Organization, Hope on Haven Hill and Concord Hospital:
- SOS Recovery Community Organization received $20,000 from CVS Health to build their current peer recovery coaches program. The money will help them recruit, train, and certify new recovery coaches to better serve individuals seeking services in Strafford County.
- Hope on Haven Hill, Rochester, a substance abuse treatment organization that helps high-risk people recovering from substance abuse disorders. Staff works with people who are homeless, pregnant and even newly parenting mothers. They will be using the $10,000 grant to train staff and volunteers.
- Concord Hospital Trust, received a $30,000 grant from CVS Health to further implement consistent SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment) screenings in their Concord Hospital Medical Group primary care practices. They will also use the grant to provide staff with professional development opportunities and training around the stigma associated with addiction and mental illness.
CVS has just started working with organizations such as these, but it is clear that they want to viewed as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem when it comes to the opioid addiction epidemic.
They pla n to use these same strategies across the US to tackle the addiction problem. They have also worked to expand Naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdoses, across 46 states. New Hampshire and many other states now allow pharmacies to sell it over the counter.