Today, I visited a young woman at the Valley Street Jail. She, like 98% of all women incarcerated in NH, and 85% of men, is there for a drug and or alcohol related crime! She is 39 years old, a mother of 4, college educated, and was living with her family in a nice home in Londonderry until her disease consumed her. Homeless, living in a tent in Derry, with her oldest son, and hungry, she walked into a recovery meeting in Derry last August. The Woman’s meeting was celebrating their 30th anniversary. More than 70 woman packed the room .They were teachers, homemakers, nurses, bus drivers, counselors, store clerks, clergy and doctors, old and young. They were Catholic, Jewish and Protestants. They were laughing and celebrating the hundreds upon hundreds of years of recovery in that very room. Helping those who still suffer is a basic tenant of most recovery programs. This was no exception. Several women brought her food, and welcomed her. She listened to the stories of despair, devastated families, criminal activities, and heard the wreckage of the past turned into stories of courage and hope. She desperately wanted what they had. She waits, in the Valley Street Jail. She has struggled with some slips along the way. Relapse is the very definition of addiction. The beginning of recovery is rarely perfect abstinence. But each time her slips have been shorter and further apart. Her problem with substance abuse started with alcohol at 14 years old. She told me today that her last slip was when her father died earlier this year, of alcoholism. His untimely death had brought back painful memories of her own childhood, and intolerable pain and shame as a mother incapable of parenting her own children. She turned herself in to jail (for theft, she committed to support her addiction) to be â€œsafe,â€ to buy herself some time clean and sober. She hopes, finally, to find a bed in rehab. She desperately wants treatment. She waits in jail.
This past Friday another young woman, originally living in Salem, with a similar story, celebrated her 3rd year of recovery at that same Friday meeting. Her first problem with substance abuse was also alcohol which she abused before she even learned how to drive. Desperate, pregnant and waiting for a treatment program to take her in NH, her addiction led to her homelessness and criminal activity in MA. Fortunately, MA provided treatment after her incarceration at Framinghanm state prison. She works full time, goes to college part time, has custody of her two children and just completed training to teach others in recovery to be recovery coaches. She became a coach herself after her first year in recovery!
Alcohol is big business in New Hampshire! State liquor stores are in evry town and on state highways. Advertisements proclaim cheap and available alcohol. Projected sales of alcohol are expected to top $1.18 billion, with gross profits of $367 million going to subsidize our state budget this year. Currently only 4 to 6% of people needing treatment get it!
We have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse and misuse in the country and only one state, Texas, has less treatment available.
Medicaid expansion is an incredible opportunity to provide treatment for the last disease we refuse to acknowledge, the leprosy of out time!
I call upon every resident of our community to call the legislatureâ€™s committee of conference, who will work toward a compromise on the Senateâ€™s failure to pass Medicaid Expansion. Senate: Chuck Morse (R-Salem), Bob Odell (R-Lempster), Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) and Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester). House: Mary Jane Wallner (D-Concord), Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua), Susan Almy (D-Lebanon), Dan Eaton (D-Stoddard) and Neal Kurk (R-Weare).
Call because we have a moral imperative.
Call because it is just plain economic sense, turning down $7.5 billion in federal dollars, and the economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in NH at $1.15 billion dollars per year!
Call because a mother from Londonderry waits in the Valley Street Jail.