By Associated Press - Wednesday, August 12, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and state health officials are calling for a review of licensing requirements at substance abuse treatment centers as the demand for treatment increases.

A working group led by state health officials is being tasked with finding ways to speed up licensing for new centers and must report its findings by Sept. 30. The state review follows a call from Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte for the federal government to ease costly requirements from some residential treatment centers.

New Hampshire saw more than 300 drug-related deaths last year, and police chiefs in major cities are calling for more help to battle what they say is a growing crisis of drug overdoses. Lawmakers, health officials and treatment providers are working to increase access to services for people suffering from heroin and opioid addiction.

“We have a legal and moral obligation to ensure that residential treatment centers are safe for their residents and their staffs,” Hassan said in a statement, “but we must also make sure regulations do not erect unnecessary barriers to new treatment options.”

The state’s licensing rules for residential treatment facilities were last changed in 2011 and have required significant upgrades in some facilities. Hassan’s office says residential treatment centers can begin seeking waivers from some of the requirements while the working group completes its review.

The state budget vetoed by Hassan this year would have increased funding for substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery programs. Hassan says continuing the state’s Medicaid expansion plan is also critical to ensuring people get access to the treatment they need.

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