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Addiction Treatment and Recovery Faciltiy in Bethlehem Receives $5 Million Boost
Published Monday, October 2, 2017

New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation, state officials, community leaders, and representatives from three northern NH nonprofits break ground for the The Friendship House project.

Surrounded by NH’s Congressional delegation, state officials, and dozens of community leaders, representatives from three northern NH nonprofits announced on Sept. 29, a $5 million investment for the reconstruction of The Friendship House, a residential substance use disorder treatment facility in Bethlehem allowing for increased capacity and expanded services to individuals in northern NH.

A newly formed collaboration between Affordable Housing Education & Development (AHEAD) Inc., North Country Health Consortium (NCHC) and Tri-County Community Action Program (TCCAP) will coordinate ownership and management of the new facility. Nonprofit representatives announced the receipt of a $2.5 million anonymous donation that was a critical component needed to finance the project. Remaining funding was secured from NH Community Development Finance Authority and NH Housing Finance Authority.

“The North Country communities, the state of New Hampshire, our federal delegation, and generous funders have come together to make this partnership possible, and we could not be more excited to ensure services will continue to be available and grow to those in need,” says Nancy Frank, CEO of North Country Health Consortium. “This project could not have happened without the foresight and generosity displayed through this $2.5 million anonymous donation, which enabled us to leverage additional funding. Our communities have recognized that it is time to treat addiction as a chronic disease with a medical model and the North Country Health Consortium and our partners are well positioned to help move this forward.”

New Hampshire is ranked second to last in the country for access to substance abuse treatment. Approximately 100,000 people in New Hampshire meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, yet the publicly funded sector has the capacity to treat roughly 5,000. With opiate and heroin use and overdoses reaching record proportions, New Hampshire is in the midst of an epidemic. These numbers identify the large gap in access to treatment services – especially in northern New Hampshire, where treatment facilities are as far as 65 miles away – creating life-or-death scenarios to those desperately seeking help.

Schematics of the reconstructed Friendship House in Bethlehem.

History & Collaboration
Tri-County Community Action Program (TCCAP) through The Friendship House has provided a person-centered, community based approach to treating substance use disorders to individuals in northern New Hampshire for 36 years. The opioid epidemic has drastically increased the demand for services throughout the state, particularly in the hard-hit northern portion. Due to its deteriorating physical condition, The Friendship House was unable to adequately respond to the epidemic by adding new beds and was at serious risk of closing its doors entirely.

The need for a new, state of the art facility was clear, so TCCAP approached AHEAD, who had a strong record of accomplishment of raising pre-development funding, building and maintaining property for nonprofit entities. AHEAD was able to raise $2.5 million in commitments from NHHFA and CDFA Community Block Grants.

Due to shifting operational and licensing requirements, it was clear that a new partner was needed to run the facility. North Country Health Consortium (NCHC), a rural health network created in 1997 that serves as a vehicle for addressing common issues through collaboration among health and human service providers was identified as potential partner. The Friendship House fit within NCHC’s existing mission and a plan was enacted to absorb all existing Friendship House employees and incorporate the organization and operations under NCHC. With all partners in place, the final piece came together when an anonymous donor came forth with a $2.5 million contribution—setting the project into motion.

“To have a facility such as this in the North Country is crucial to our region’s response to substance abuse and overall behavioral health,” said Mike Claflin, executive director of AHEAD. “So many groups united for this effort but it only took us so far. When a benefactor emerged willing to dedicate such a significant sum of money to enable this project to move forward it was truly a miracle and testament to work The Friendship House does to transform lives. It is my hope that this might become a model that can be replicated in other rural areas in the U.S.”

Today’s announcement and groundbreaking launches a 10-month construction process, which will culminate with the May opening of a 17,588 square-foot, 32 bed treatment and recovery center offering a full continuum of care to those battling the disease of addiction.

Doris Enman, executive director of North Country Serenity Center, who is in long-term recovery thanks in part to services provided by The Friendship House, says, “As someone who has survived the unbearable pains of addiction and who now works to support those who are suffering, I can say with great certainty that The Friendship House will serve as the foundation to save lives, rebuild families and strengthen our community.”

Enman continues, “When you receive a call at 11:30pm from a 67-year-old father whose daughter is ready to begin her recovery process, you have a very brief window to help find resources. Outside that window, withdrawal symptoms can begin anywhere from three to six hours after the last use. With extremely limited addiction treatment services and time delays for beds across the state, you run the risk of her walking away because of the fear of excruciating pain that comes with the withdrawal, which increases her risk of dying from an overdose. Thanks to the expansion and enhanced treatment options available at The Friendship House, scenarios like this will be alleviated.”

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