By Alex Lippa
---- — HAMPSTEAD — It’s just 10 beds, but that’s 10 more than the state now has to help people with substance abuse problems.
Hampstead Hospital opens a new program Monday that will help fill a gaping hole in the state’s drug and alcohol treatment options.
But there’s a demand for much more.
New Hampshire has the capacity to serve just 5 percent of the 100,000 people with substance abuse problems with short-term residential treatment programs, according to an official with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Recovery Matters is designed for people who have completed detoxification, but aren’t ready to live a sober lifestyle on their own.
The hospital has a detox program, which can accomodate 15 people. Until now, once they completed that process, there have been few options for the next step, hospital officials said.
“Our hope is that people out of detox can step right into this unit and get some more treatment in a more contained and structured environment,” said Patti Shea, director of clinical operations at Hampstead Hospital. “Our goal is to keep them connected in their communities so that when they leave, they aren’t totally out their on their own.”
Stacy Carpenter, clinical director of Recovery Matters, said residents will stay in the program anywhere from five to 28 days. The treatment program is covered by many health insurance policies.
“The idea is that here they would be able to do all that in one place,” Carpenter said. “They can detox upstairs and then you can continue the care downstairs.”
The hospital also has Quitting Time, a 12-hour-a-week outpatient program, but often their patients need more attention than that can provide, officials said.
“We’ve had to refer people out of state, even as far as Florida,” Shea said. “There’s nothing accessible. There are very limited resources when it comes to residential treatment. Those that are available have lengthy waitlists from between four to eight weeks, and there becomes the possibility for relapse because they are at very high risk.”
Eric Spofford, chief executive officer of Granite House, a sober living house in Derry, said residential treatment facilities in New Hampshire are hard to find.
“This is something that is desperately needed in New Hampshire,” Spofford said. “We are behind when it comes to residential treatment. The substance abuse problems here are no less than anywhere else in the country. Yet, there are only a handful of them in New Hampshire. This is a good start, but it’s not going to be enough to fill the need of the area.”
Joe Harding, drug and alcohol services director at DHHS, said there were more facilities 15 years ago. They disappeared when insurance providers stopped paying for coverage, he said.
“Now, there are very few places that offer short-term residential treatment anymore,” Harding said. “Hampstead Hospital offering the service is a good sign; we hope that it will be replicated in other areas.”
The new program is structured.
“It’s a highly structured group format,” Carpenter said. “They are in group from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. They’ll have groups around relapse prevention, as well as coping and life skills group, such as how to apply for a job and how to talk with people.”
Families are encouraged to be involved in the recovery. On Saturdays, families are invited to spend time together to work on healthy relationships.
A young woman yesterday pleaded with a judge to let her receive drug treatment, rather than linger in jail. Her father, too, spoke to her need for drug treatment.
Rochelle Richards, 23, of Derry was arraigned yesterday on robbery related charges. She told the judge and police she was addicted to heroin. She also said she had been in treatment at Hampstead Hospital and wanted to go back.
Her father, Michael, asked the judge to let her continue treatment at Hampstead Hospital or a similar facility.
“She’s not a bad person,” he said. “She is a drug addict.”
The judge set her bail at $50,000 cash and Richards remains in jail.