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Friday, October 14, 2016

State forms new drug task force

By DAMIEN FISHER
Staff Writer

NASHUA - As Gov. Maggie Hassan announced the formation of the new Drug Overdose Fatality Review Committee this week, Nashua was dealing with a recent surge in overdose-related deaths.

Nashua Police Chief Andrew Lavoie said Thursday that there have been five or six opioid-related overdose deaths since the start of the month, though some of the investigations are not yet complete. For contrast, there were eight opioid-related overdose deaths for the entire month of September. ...

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NASHUA - As Gov. Maggie Hassan announced the formation of the new Drug Overdose Fatality Review Committee this week, Nashua was dealing with a recent surge in overdose-related deaths.

Nashua Police Chief Andrew Lavoie said Thursday that there have been five or six opioid-related overdose deaths since the start of the month, though some of the investigations are not yet complete. For contrast, there were eight opioid-related overdose deaths for the entire month of September.

"It's not good," Lavoie said of the October count so far.

Lavoie believes the deaths are likely related more to fentanyl, than heroin. According to the New Hampshire Medical Examiner, the majority of overdose deaths in the Granite State are from fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid used to treat severe pain, and other synthetic opioids, as opposed to heroin.

In 2015, there were 394 opioid-related overdose deaths in New Hampshire, and 45 were from heroin, or a combination of heroin and other drugs, including Fentanyl. For 2016, the Medical Examiner's office has figures through March 28 showing 27 overdose deaths. Of that total, three have been from heroin, or heroin and other non-fentanyl drugs.

Hassan signed an executive order on Wednesday establishing the review committee at the recommendation of New Hampshire's Drug Czar James Vara.

"Every overdose death will be reviewed by this committee," Hassan said. "The purpose is to make sure that we are learning everything we can from these terrible, tragic deaths."

The committee will examine data, trends and patterns of overdose-related deaths to inform policy recommendations and to direct efforts to combat the crisis, she said. It will be led by New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster.

The formation of the committee comes as Hassan's term in office is set to end in January. Hassan is running for the United States Senate seat currently held by Kelly Ayotte, leaving any recommendations coming out of the review committee to the next governor and legislature to consider.

Hassan hopes that the committee will be able to set New Hampshire on the right track. It will be a long process, requiring effort from all sectors, she said.

"We didn't get here overnight," she said.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-6531 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com.