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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Getting treatment for addiction in New Hampshire available only to a few

DOVER – By the time he realized he couldn’t help himself alone, Dean LeMire was a long way down a road he never thought he’d find himself.

He was 26 years old. He worked, sometimes, for a relative from whom he stole Percocet pills. He overdrew his bank account constantly and stole frequently. And that was just to get by. ...

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DOVER – By the time he realized he couldn’t help himself alone, Dean LeMire was a long way down a road he never thought he’d find himself.

He was 26 years old. He worked, sometimes, for a relative from whom he stole Percocet pills. He overdrew his bank account constantly and stole frequently. And that was just to get by.

“It got to the point where I wasn’t getting high. I just wasn’t sick,” LeMire said.

By that point, he’d spent half his life addicted, first to booze and then heroin and this time, he knew, he couldn’t kick it alone. And while having lunch with his mother on Mother’s Day in 2012, he confessed. He told her he couldn’t stop shooting heroin and that he needed help.

It was a vital step, but it was also when he learned, as thousands of other New Hampshire residents have, getting help can be difficult.

It took 21 days and about 63 phone calls to get help. He called three times a day, every day, for longer than it takes to complete the Winter Olympics. But he got a bed at a one of the slim handful of publicly funded in-patient drug treatment facilities in the state, Southeastern New Hampshire Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services.

He was one of the lucky ones, since he “didn’t have any money, really, to throw at the problem,” he said.

Fewer than 6 percent of New Hampshire drug and alcohol addicts get the treatment they need, according to federal statistics. That rate is second worst in the country behind only Texas.

Waiting to get into the treatment center was excruciating and it was hopeless. LeMire tried to kill himself at one point during that waiting period. He downed a bottle of whiskey and got in his car. He was on the way to buy heroin when he caused a significant accident.

“There’s no doubt in my mind I had given up,” he said. “Recovery was really timely for me. It was actually a little late. I caused a lot of damage.”

In many ways, though, LeMire was lucky.

A main hurdle to drug treatment isn’t just accessibility to affordable treatment facilities but immediate – or at least rapid – access.

“For me to have three weeks of willingness to try and find treatment is pretty rare,” LeMire said. “Most people, within the hour, they’re out. They’re not willing. I feel pretty lucky there.”

Treatment options are expanding, though. The expansion of the state’s Medicaid program earlier this month will make nearly 60,000 residents eligible for the program. Experts expect nearly 8,000 of them to apply for drug and alcohol treatment programs.

“There’s a lot of momentum, a lot of energy in the treatment and advocacy realm,” LeMire said.

Another piece of good news: For as expensive or difficult to get as it can be, drug treatment works. Not always, not always the first time and not without a lot of work, but for LeMire, his drug use was over. He entered the in-patient program on June 6, 2012, and his life is unrecognizable barely more than two years later.

LeMire, now 28, is the father of a 4-month-old child. He was married in October. And he’s working at a new sober house in Dover called Bonfire Recovery Services, where he is an advocate and media manager. He spends some of his time sharing his own tale of addiction and recovery and trying to convince other people to invest more in treatment and prevention and less in prisons and handcuffs.

“It’s pretty weird for me, but I’ve experienced a transformation in recovery, so I speak pretty loudly and publicly about what happened to me in the hopes that it can happen to more people,” LeMire said. “It’s pretty obvious that imprisonment and sweeping addiction and addicts under the run doesn’t work for our society. It’s a huge drain, and there is a better solution that exists that we haven’t invested enough into.

“That’s treatment and recovery centers.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached
at 594-6415 or jcote@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Cote
on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).