After months of delays and uncertainties, the 2020 legislative session has come to an end, and while it was unlike any we have ever experienced before, we have much to celebrate. Many of the bills that passed into law contain provisions that will have immediate impacts, helping New Hampshire to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while others will help support public health into the future.
In this newsletter we will update you on some of what we have been working on these past few months, including the status of the four New Futures' campaign priorities (spoiler alert: all four campaign bills are now law!), other critical health and wellness policy efforts from this session, the 2020 Kids Count Data Book, the New Futures' report on the costs of COVID-19 on substance use treatment and recovery providers, as well as upcoming advocacy opportunities.
New Futures' Campaign Priorities
All four of New Futures' campaign priority bills - prescription drug price relief, Tobacco 21, telehealth expansion, and support for behavioral health services in schools - have been signed into law by Governor Chris Sununu.
THANK YOU for all of your hard work to support the well-being of the Granite State. Despite the challenges and uncertainty of the past few months, New Futures advocates and partner organizations showed their commitment to the health and wellness of New Hampshire and those efforts have resulted in major legislative advancements.
Other Critical Policies
When the legislature reconvened in June after months of delay due to COVID-19, Senators combined dozens of bills into a limited number of omnibus bills to expedite the legislative process. This affected the hundreds of health and wellness bills New Futures was working on, though many positive bills, like those included below, were passed and signed into law. Additionally, much of our policy priorities pivoted to support urgent public health needs not included in legislation.
Alcohol and Other Drug Policy:
Alcohol Good Samaritan Law: HB 1251, included in HB 1645, ensures that someone under 21 who reports someone's potential alcohol overdose will not be arrested or prosecuted for their own alcoholic beverage violations in most cases. The governor signed this New Futures-supported bill into law as a part of HB 1645.
Partial Medicaid Eligibility: HB 1639, which New Futures supported, guarantees that a person who meets all the eligibility requirements (coverage through) the Medicaid program, but is over the income limit, can still receive full benefits in most financial situations. This bill was signed into law as a part of an omnibus health bill.
Access to Treatment Policy:
Medication Assisted Treatment in Jail: New Futures supported this bill, which requires Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders to be available for incarcerated individuals in a county correctional facility. Formerly SB 600, this bill was signed into law as a part of HB 1639.
Early Childhood Policy:
Emergency Childcare and Family Support Programs: Childcare facilities and family support programs received one round of COVID emergency relief funding due to advocacy from New Futures Kids Count, the Governor's Office, the State, advocacy partners and service providers. However, the need for continued support remains to ensure children and families can continue to get childcare and family support services now and into the future.
Children's Behavioral Health Policy:
School Discipline Reform: New Futures supported this bill, which modifies our current but outdated school discipline and expulsion policies. The Governor signed this bill as a part of HB 1558.
2020 Kids Count National Data Book
New national data shows that New Hampshire ranks second in the United States for overall child well-being. The number two ranking, released as part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2020 KIDS COUNT®Data Book, is a welcomed recognition, but it reveals a drop from first in 2019, leaving room to improve supports and services for Granite State children and families, especially under the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“New Hampshire is frequently ranked among the best states in the nation to raise a family, but many children across our sate still struggle to access the support they need to thrive.” - Rebecca Woitkowski, Kids Count policy coordinator for New Futures.
For more on how NH fares on key indicators and critical policy takeaways, click here.
New Futures' Report: COST OF COVID-19 TO SUBSTANCE USE TREATMENT AND RECOVERY PROVIDERS
The report, which includes the results of a survey of New Hampshire’s substance use treatment and recovery organizations, shows that more than 80 percent of responding providers have experienced significant financial hardship due to COVID-19, with average billing losses of more than $21,000 since January. Click here to read the full report
This report highlights the devastating impact of COVID-19 on critical providers, who are hemorrhaging funds at a time when their services are so desperately needed.
83.3% of responding small and large group treatment providers experienced an overall decrease in insurance revenue between January-April 2020. On average, each responding small and large group treatment provider lost $21,452 during that time, with average monthly losses of $7,150;
73.9% of organizations surveyed reported investing in new technology to see clients safely during COVID-19, at an average cost of $6,324;
47.8% of respondents reported canceling income-generating events, including fundraisers, with average lost revenue of $40,863 per organization;
39.1% of responding organizations reported spending on personal protection equipment (PPE), at an average cost of $3,155.
These numbers indicate COVID-19 could lead to more than $6 million in billing losses by October, among other costs, to treatment and recovery providers by October, the report concludes.
New Futures' recommendation:
The Governor's office recently announced some critical investments for the behavioral health system. While a portion of these funds may be awarded to select substance use disorder treatment programs, the findings from this report suggest continued targeted support will be needed, for addiction treatment providers specifically, to ensure these entities are made whole through the pandemic.
New Covid-19 Equity Field Grant Opportunity
New Futures is excited to announce a new Field Grant opportunity to COVID-19 Equity Taskforce partners and others! Field Grants will be awarded to support two categories of advocacy in the 2021 legislative session, (1) Taskforce/Coalition Participation and (2) Individual Advocacy. Field Grants will provide funding to allow partners and individuals to directly participate in state level advocacy and lobbying activities around identified COVID-19 health equity policy priorities with the goal of building equity and justice for marginalized communities in NH. Click here for more information and to apply.