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Expanded Medicaid is critical to fighting the state’s opioid epidemic.

We face many obstacles when it comes to ensuring that all Granite Staters have access to quality, affordable health care. While the heroin and opioid crisis is the most current public health challenge for our state, we must make sure to pay due attention to additional issues often overlooked, including:

? A shortage of trained health care workers.

? Lack of available mental health treatment.

? Reports of insurance companies shortchanging substance abuse treatment providers.

? Meeting our obligations stemming from a lawsuit with mental health providers.

None of these problems will be solved by sticking to a strict ideology. When it comes to the health and well-being of our friends and neighbors, we need to put aside petty arguments about which political philosophy is right and work together to get results for our people, families and businesses.

I’m running for the state Senate to make sure that you have a senator who is dedicated to putting the health and well-being of the people of District 12 first, and reaching across partisan lines to achieve real results.

Gov. Maggie Hassan’s executive order creating a bipartisan Commission on Health Care Workforce is studying ways to address the state’s shortage of health care workers, including drug and mental health counselors. The commission will report steps the next legislature must embrace. This is my area of expertise, and I will bring the knowledge from my long nursing career to implement actions that enhance our workforce.

In the Senate, I helped lead negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, between our business community and health care advocates, to craft the bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program. Better known as Medicaid expansion, it now ensures that nearly 50,000 hardworking Granite Staters can access quality, affordable health care.

There is no question this program has been a success. Uninsured emergency room visits are down significantly, uncompensated care (a hidden tax on everyone) has decreased, and rates of health insurance cost increases has slowed.

Support continues from all corners: our business community, substance abuse professionals, health care providers and the law enforcement community. And Medicaid expansion is integral to the success of transforming our mental health delivery services. I worked with DHHS to design the best ways to use a new, $150 million federal grant to improve and expand mental health care, and stop the travesty of people spending days in an ER, waiting for proper treatment.

Medicaid expansion is an area where my opponent and I disagree. While I worked to find compromise to create and support this program, my opponent has repeatedly voted against it, and has pledged to continue to do so.

One cannot be serious about stemming and reversing the tide on the heroin and opioid crisis without supporting the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. Without it, nearly 50,000 Granite Staters will lose insurance coverage for substance misuse and behavioral health services. The thousands who have accessed these vital services will be left without treatment.

While continuing the Health Protection Program is a key piece in combating the opioid crisis, there’s much more to be done. As a member of the Nashua Drug Court Steering Committee, I’ve seen firsthand the toll this crisis takes on our friends, our families, our economy, our health care system and our communities. And I’ve seen this program eliminate long, expensive jail sentences and help rebuild lives to be productive citizens.

This problem requires an "all hands on deck" mentality. The Legislature made some good progress this year: more funding to help law enforcement get drugs off our streets, increasing treatment funding, revising opioid prescribing rules. But more needs to be done – according to the New Hampshire medical examiner, we’re on pace to have more overdose deaths in 2016 than any other year. Prevention and treatment initiatives are imperative.

I’m committed to working with all sides to get real results and reverse the tide of this terrible epidemic. I’m a firm believer that government can’t be the answer to all our problems – but it is the job of our elected leaders to find solutions for their communities. I’ll do just that in the Senate, to combat this crisis and any others that may come our way.

On Nov. 8, you’ll have a lot to consider and a real choice between my opponent and me. If I am fortunate enough to represent you, I will continue to listen with open ears, consider every option with an open mind, and work toward the goal of expanded access to quality care and reduced costs for the people, families and businesses of New Hampshire.

Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis, is a candidate for the District 12 seat in the New Hampshire Senate, representing the communities of Brookline, Greenville, Hollis, Mason, New Ipswich, Rindge, and Wards 1, 2, and 5 in Nashua.