August 6, 2015

Hassan’s Absentee Leadership Is Hurting New Hampshire During Its Heroin Epidemic

Gov. Maggie Hassan today declined a plea from the mayor of Manchester – New Hampshire’s largest city and ground zero for the state’s ballooning heroin crisis – to declare a state of emergency. The New Hampshire Union Leader reports:

Gov. Maggie Hassan has declined a request from Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas that she declare a public health state of emergency over the heroin epidemic in the Queen City and the rest of the state.

Hassan also declined Gatsas’ request to utilize federal funds to establish a drug court in his ravaged community:

In a letter sent to Gatsas Wednesday, Hassan also states she is unable to use $2.5 million in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) funds — which must be returned to the federal government if not used by Oct. 1 — to fund a drug court in Manchester.

This despite the fact that to “Expand Drug Courts and Treatment Options” was one of the top recommendations of Hassan’s handpicked drug czar in a July report released by her office.

This isn’t the first time Hassan – who vetoed the state budget leaving state funding in limbo – has proven ineffective at leveraging available federal funds. In July, Hassan was unaware that New Hampshire had received a $12.5 million federal grant to combat the heroin crisis until asked about it by the media:

New Hampshire received the same grant as well, but when asked about it Thursday, the governor’s office said the state Department of Health and Human Services didn’t flag it for attention, pointing out that the money doesn’t arrive until October.

Both Hassan and her drug czar have been heavily criticized for their lack of communication with law enforcement and local officials:

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard said his calls for help fighting the heroin epidemic are falling on deaf ears … Willard said. ‘I have called for action. What that action looks like, I don’t know because no one has come to me to tell me that they hear my plea.’

Hassan did, however – perhaps with an eye to her political ambitions – break her pattern of inaction to lob partisan criticism at Republicans.