Dr. Lisa Marsch testifies at House Bipartisan Heroin Task Force on NH fentanyl overdose crisis

On Monday, February 6, Dr. Lisa Marsch, Director of the Northeast Node and the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health (CTBH), testified at a Congressional briefing of the House Bipartisan Heroin Task Force.

Dr. Marsch was invited to attend the briefing to share preliminary data from her NIDA-funded rapid ethnographic study, “Understanding Opioid Overdoses in New Hampshire.” Through the CTBH, Dr. Marsch and the Node Administration team have been conducting the qualitative study interviewing opioid users in New Hampshire to get a sense of why New Hampshire-ites are overdosing on opioids and synthetic opioids at a higher rate than any other state in the nation (please see this CDC website for more information on per capita deaths related to fentanyl overdoses).

Dr. Marsch testified at the Task Force briefing alongside Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Corey Waller, Legislative Advocacy Committee Chairman of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and Dr. Josh Rising, Director of Health Programs for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“New Hampshire has had the second-highest rate of opioid overdoses in the country per capita, and actually is number one for fentanyl overdoses per capita in the country, having experienced a doubling of fentanyl-related deaths in the last couple of years and an increase of almost 1600% in fentanyl-related deaths in the last 5 years,” Dr. Marsch testified at the hearing.

New Hampshire is facing an epidemic of fentanyl-related overdose deaths unseen in any other state in the country at this time, and NH Representative Ann Kuster, a co-chair on the Task Force, invited Dr. Marsch to speak at the briefing to underscore that problem using data collected from the rapid ethnographic study.

“Every single one of the 75 users that we interviewed reported having observed at least one, and typically more than one, overdoses,” Dr. Marsch said. “One young woman said that in the past 2 months she had seen 20-25 overdoses, including her own mother who died from an overdose, her brother, who overdosed 17 times in a matter of months and is now incarcerated, and her own personal use of fentanyl persists.

“These data emphasize the strong need for new models and scaling up access to integrated care approaches, and this is a theme you’ve heard here today.”

You can view the recorded briefing here.

The Understanding Opioid Overdoses in New Hampshire study report is anticipated for this Spring.