No Serenity now: Learning from program’s collapse

New Hampshire Union Leader
January 28, 2018
The collapse of the Serenity Place drug-treatment center in Manchester must be a cautionary tale as New Hampshire continues to grapple with the opioid-addiction crisis. That will require local and state officials to take the time to determine just what went wrong with a program that closed with an $800,000 operating deficit, and owing the state at least $180,000 to cover unpaid wages.

A public accounting is a must. Someone, perhaps Gov. Chris Sununu or Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, needs to oversee such a review to make sure it doesn’t fall through the cracks even as the city and state move to pick up the pieces.

The opioid crisis that has hit New Hampshire and the nation came on with little warning and much ferocity. People of all ages and all societal strata were affected, and the correct first impulse was to get treatment to the afflicted as fast and as efficiently as possible.

That led to the “Safe Station” program that Manchester pioneered and that many communities have copied nationwide.

Serenity Place was the next step to which the drug user who wanted help could find it. The program received much praise and its intentions seemed to have been exemplary. But it apparently wasn’t positioned to “scale up” along with the drug problem.

Reports of unpaid and misdirected bills have been heard. Inexperience of the group’s leadership may have played a role. Whatever the problems, they need to be identified and addressed. The drug crisis, unfortunately, isn’t going away anytime soon.

On the positive side, the state appears to have acted quickly to see that the failed program’s important treatment efforts did not go unmet. Families in Transition – New Horizons and other local programs have stepped up. Mayor Joyce Craig has named a team to coordinate the city’s continued response to the crisis.

There is a lot at stake here. Even if money could solve all the problems, which it can’t, there is only so much of it and it must be used wisely. Such was clearly not the case at Serenity Place.

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