HAMPTON – Selectmen said any concerns about a new addiction recovery center coming to town are being quelled by frequent public outreach from its organizers as they met with the center’s director Monday night.
Selectman Regina Barnes said she has become increasingly calmed by public forums held by SOS Recovery Community Organization in the last few weeks on what kind of operation the peer-based recovery group could bring to Route 1 in the near future. SOS is looking to open its third recovery center in the state at the former Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce building near the Hampton Falls border, waiting on grant money from the state to actually open up.
Barnes told Burns, who met with selectmen, she heard concerns from a resident who felt not enough information had been provided about what the center would offer.
“I didn’t have answers to give them,” said Barnes. “We have answers now.”
Last week, Burns said concerns were raised at one forum about increased criminal activity caused by the center, though Police Chief Richard Sawyer has said the concern is unfounded.
The center would offer non-medical services similar to SOS locations in Dover and Rochester, including coaching for people battling addiction and guidance for them to access more resources. Burns said the Seacoast lacks addiction recovery resources despite an ongoing drug epidemic. He described the corridor between Hampton and Epping that would benefit from the new recovery center as a “desert” when it comes to addiction resources.
Selectman Jim Waddell was supportive of SOS and that it was unfortunate the “NIMBY attitude,” referring to the phrase “not in my backyard,” can get in the way of positive efforts like recovery centers.
Earlier in the meeting, Tracy Kelly, a woman who raised concerns about the recovery center at a previous public forum, said Monday that she has since talked frequently with Burns and learned more about the recovery center. She told selectmen she was mostly concerned about a lack of information being distributed on the operation.
“I’m very happy he’s here to present his great organization to the town,” said Kelly of Burns. “Citizens do want to help their fellow citizens… you’ll get more engagement by letting people know what’s really going on in town.”
Burns said he is waiting to find out if $100,000 will be made available to SOS by the state through its opioid response money. He said the grant money is expected, SOS having signed an intent to lease the space.
Selectman Mary-Louise Woolsey asked Burns about SOS’s intent to offer free naloxone, a drug known by the brand name Narcan that reverses opioid overdoses. She was concerned the facility was at a higher risk of being burglarized by people trying to access the drug, but Burns said Narcan, a nasal spray, has no effect other than reviving people who are overdosing. The drug is used by first responders and is available for purchase over the counter in New Hampshire.
“Naloxone has no abuse potential,” said Burns. He added that if he sprayed his nose with naloxone right then, he said he would “probably get a runny nose and a headache.”
Board members also said SAU 90 Superintendent Kathleen Murphy supported the recovery center and had no concern about its proximity to Hampton’s schools. Burns encouraged people to contact him with more questions or to stop in to their locations on Dover and Rochester to learn more about what services could come to Hampton.
Selectmen Chairman Rusty Bridle thanked Kelly, who was sitting in the audience, for raising her concerns, saying it was important to get any questions answered for the public.
“It got the questions out there, and it got the people talking about it,” said Bridle.