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Congresswoman Annie Kuster Leads Discussion at Rivier University on Opioid Epidemic

Congresswoman Annie Kuster, the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, held a roundtable discussion today with leadership from Rivier University's Center on Behavioral Health Professions and Workforce Development and local healthcare professionals.

KusterAudienceMemberNashua Mayor Jim Donchess, Sister Paula Marie Buley, IHM, President of Rivier University, and Greater Nashua education and healthcare professionals contributed to the discussion. Along with Congresswoman Kuster, they provided research and treatment statistics, first-hand experiences in working with those struggling with substance use disorder, and the challenges facing New Hampshire and the nation in combating the opioid epidemic.

Congresswoman Kuster noted the need for workforce development in New Hampshire, referencing that the state stands at “twice the national average for opioid prescribing and yet half the national average for workforce, treatment and response [resources].” The Congresswoman continued, “New Hampshire can be on the cutting edge of getting us out of this crisis,” and applauded The Center for Behavioral Health Professions and Workforce Development at Rivier University as the type of innovative program that should be promoted across New Hampshire and the country.

Additional discussion topics included substance use disorder prevention, education, treatment, and the opioid epidemic’s powerful impact on families, veterans, and rural communities. Workforce development was highlighted as a key factor in providing educated and credentialed professionals to aid in treatment and recovery, as well as addressing the root causes that contribute to addiction including behavioral health. Strong points were made on the need for financial resources to fund workforce development and all aspects of treatment and recovery by panelists and audience members.

Sister Paula Marie Buley, IHM shared that she senses a paradigm shift within the community. “It’s not about expense, it’s about investment. And the greatest investment is in our citizens. To the extent that we fail in that ability to invest in people, to invest in an educated workforce, and to invest in children, is the extent to which we fail to invest in New Hampshire.”

In addition to Mayor Donchess and Sister Paula Marie Buley, IHM, panel members included Nadine Sacco, Executive Director of The Center for Behavioral Health Professions at Rivier University; Karen Schedin, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Rivier University; Lisa Vasquez, Substance Misuse Prevention Coordinator for the City of Nashua; Elyssa Clairmont, Continuum of Care Substance Misuse Facilitator for the City of Nashua; Geoff Vercauteren, Workforce Development Director at the Catholic Medical Center, and Rivier University graduate students working in the field, Scott Congdon, Sarah Bemish, and Gregory Lennox.

The Center for Behavioral Health Professions and Workforce Development at Rivier University is an initiative in response to the increasing demand for professionals in fields of behavioral health and substance use disorder. The Center partners with regional healthcare providers to ensure a well-trained workforce is ready to meet the demands of regional healthcare and social service providers, schools and governmental agencies. The Center is a hub for behavioral health professions, highlighting Rivier’s unique ability to expand the workforce pipeline through the delivery of targeted academic programs.