Boys & Girls Club responds to opioid issue

Monica Gallant is the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley’s new Director of Prevention Services.

MILFORD – New Hampshire has the unhappy distinction of ranking No. 2 in the nation, behind West Virginia, in the number of opioid-related deaths relative to its population. And it is No. 1 for the number of deaths related to the deadly drug, fentanyl.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Services’ website, in 2015, more than 400 people in New Hampshire died as a result of a drug overdose, 2 ½ times more overdoses than in 2011. The majority of those overdoses were related to opioids.

At a gathering at the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley last week, Monica Gallant, the club’s new Director of Prevention Services, rolled out the club’s response to the crisis.

Gallant talked to several dozen people in the lobby of the Amato Center, including school officials, business and church leaders, health care providers, police and youth-service professionals and laid out her three priorities, including a new program called the Children’s Resiliency Retreat.

The Retreat, scheduled to start in January, will be one-day sessions hosted each month for school-age children affected by a loved one’s alcohol or drug use. It is designed to give vulnerable children the feeling of being connected and surrounded by a supportive community.

“We know they suffer toxic stress,” Gallant said. “They are the forgotten population in this crisis.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley, along with the Nashua and Salem clubs, have been awarded a grant for “Parenting Wisely,” a computer-based program that teaches parents and children ages 9-18 skills to improve their relationships and decrease conflict.

A broad survey, Gallant said, shows less than one-third of children in the sixth through 12th grades feel they have positive relationships with their parents.

Gallant also talked about C.A.S.T. – Community Action for Safe Teens – the ongoing grass-roots coalition for substance-abuse prevention that unites police, school administrators and state representatives in prevention efforts and provides peer-to-peer substance abuse awareness.

Milford state Rep. Joelle Martin, a member of the C.A.S.T. steering committee, called the programs critical initiatives.

Drug abuse is an individual and family tragedy, but its economic impact can’t be overlooked.

Martin cited statistics showing the cost of alcohol and drug misuse to New Hampshire in 2014 was more than $2 billion. That number does not include the $604 million in costs related to premature deaths.

“For every dollar spent on prevention, $18 are saved,” she said, because of an improved workforce and healthier citizens.

State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, executive director of the Council for Youths with Chronic Health Conditions, came down from the North Country for the event.

“We are not doing enough” to combat addiction, he said, and it is destroying families.

Martin invited people to become involved in the children’s retreat program.

For more information, contact Gallant or the Boys & Girls Club’s Executive Director Michael Goodwin at 603-672-1002.