Medicaid expansion essential to public health

I have the privilege of serving as a board member for the greater Seacoast Community Health Center, which operates Families First Health and Support Center and Goodwin Community Health, and treats 16,000 patients mainly from the Seacoast region. I am writing to demonstrate why, for the well being of our state, our health center, and our patients, it is imperative that the Medicaid expansion program is reauthorized this legislative session. Medicaid expansion is responsible for providing health insurance to 53,000 Granite Staters including well over 5,000 individuals in the greater Seacoast region.

Since Medicaid expansion includes substance use disorders and behavioral health in its 10 essential benefits, it has become one of New Hampshires greatest tools to combat the opiod epidemic. Statewide approximately 10 percent of New Hampshires adults have a substance use disorder. Medicaid expansion has more than doubled the number of Granite Staters who access behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment, making our communities healthier, safer, and more productive. Every day we treat patients who are receiving this much needed treatment and are on the path to full recovery. One such patient agreed to share her story: Without treatment, she says, I could have died. I could be another statistic. I could have left my children without a mother. To respect her privacy, well call her Claire.

A single mother addicted to oxycodone, she came to Goodwin in hopes of joining the Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) program. Claire experienced traumatic events as a young girl including sexual assault, feelings of abandonment, and PTSD. She lost her father to heroin, and her brother lives with substance misuse disorders.

Within three years of her battle with addiction, she became homeless, sleeping in the back of her car even during New Hampshire winters. More difficult than losing her home was losing her children, who moved in with family members. Thats when I hit rock bottom. I lost everything I ever worked for; I burned every bridge. Everyone who believed in me was gone. Thats when I realized I had nothing left to lose. My kids inspired me to be a better person. While Claires children motivated her to seek treatment, she had to want it for herself.

Claire researched her local recovery options and discovered the MAT program at Goodwin Community Health, where select providers are licensed to prescribe buprenorphine (Suboxone) and Vivitrol to adult patients. These medications decrease cravings and withdrawal symptoms, helping patients to focus on other aspects of their treatment plan. While these medications do not cure opioid addiction, they can assist in the development of healthy and effective skills to be free of opioids entirely.

The process to get into recovery can be overwhelming. I remember going through the recovery paperwork thinking, What am I doing? What am I signing up for? I was afraid of failing again.

The Goodwin staff believe in me and have taken me in as family. They make me feel like I am worth helping.

Claire continues receiving treatment at Goodwin. She enjoys spending time with her children outdoors, playing Frisbee, and taking them to museums. For a while, I was absent and clouded. Now I can enjoy being with my children in the moment. She was even able to save enough money to celebrate her daughters second birthday. I never would have been able to do than before. That was a huge accomplishment for me.

The Seacoast is a safer, healthier, and more productive community because of Medicaid expansion. We recognize the difference in our patients lives and the far-reaching benefits in our community as we address the opioid epidemic. This program is an opportunity to improve the health of our citizens, and it is working. That is why we ask you to join us in support of Senate Bill 313 to continue this program.

Valerie Goodwin is board chair for the Greater Seacoast Community Health Center.

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