News & Press

By Kyle Stucker

ROCHESTER — Thanks to an enormous and ever-growing outpouring of support, the individuals operating Rochester’s new emergency warming shelter believe there’s enough momentum to transform their temporary salve into a regular occurrence to better aid local people in need.
Extreme, life-threatening cold inspired the conversion of part of the Rochester Community Center into the Seacoast area’s only 24-hour warming station on Thursday. Since the station opened, more than two dozen people have sought overnight shelter. In addition, countless community members and businesses have dished out hot meals and piled mountains of nonperishable food, clothing, supplies, books and more onto folding tables erected in the room typically used by Gerry’s Food Pantry.
Tri-City Co-Op’s Don McCullough and SOS Recovery Community Organization’s Elizabeth Atwood are the two social service officials credited with kickstarting the citywide collaboration that created the shelter. They say the early success is both overwhelming and validating because discussions are underway to not only extend the volunteer-run station past its Jan. 2 end date, but also to use it as the model for either a reoccurring or permanent overnight shelter in Strafford County.
“We’re going to storm the castle,” said McCullough, a retired Rochester firefighter who is the program coordinator at Tri-City Co-Op, a peer-support agency that serves Strafford County. “We’re planning to do this every cold snap, but the goal is to also make it permanent.”
Tri-City Co-Op, SOS and a number of organizations, nonprofits, ministries and businesses from throughout the region partnered with city employees to make the warming shelter a reality. The city is allowing SOS and an army of volunteers to run the shelter out of the community center at no charge. The shelter isn’t staffed by paid city employees.

By Kyle Stucker

With New Hampshire on track to finish 2017 with fewer fatal drug overdoses than in 2016, leaders within the Seacoast’s recovery community say the data gives them both relief and frustration as they continue efforts to help individuals with substance use disorders.

The Seacoast area and the Granite State as a whole made a number of strides in 2017 to combat the opioid crisis and to increase access to treatment and services. Some of those efforts played roles in a modest statewide drop in fatal overdoses from 485 in 2016 to a projected 466 in 2017, which according to the state would be the first decrease since 2012.

However, to individuals like SOS Recovery Community Organization Director John Burns, it’s not enough when there are still hundreds of people dying each year and scores more are battling with the many factors that contribute to substance misuse.

“When you look at how many deaths, I cannot think of any other crisis that would cause the death of this many people that would be treated with such limited resources,” Burns has said. “To see that the numbers aren’t showing much improvement if any shouldn’t be a surprise.”

As of Dec. 7, substance use caused 350 confirmed deaths in New Hampshire, while another 89 cases were pending toxicology results, according to the state medical examiner’s office. Of those 350 confirmed cases, 144 were related to fentanyl, 102 to a combination of fentanyl and a non-heroin opiate, 14 to a combination of heroin and fentanyl, one to heroin, and 44 to other opiates and opioids.

New Hampshire has the highest fentanyl death rate in the country and is No. 2 in terms of the overall overdose death rate per capita, behind only West Virginia. Some officials attribute the number of fentanyl-related deaths to the history of New Hampshire’s opiate pain prescriptions. They also say, based on a new study of fentanyl users, that the drug, which is cheaper than heroin, has a shorter duration, in turn causing individuals to use more frequently to maintain the effect.

The state’s latest available 2017 figures show Strafford County, the state’s fourth largest county, has the second highest per capita drug overdose death rate of 4.39 deaths for every 10,000 of population. Rockingham County, the state’s second largest county, has a rate of 2.99.

Most police and fire departments in Strafford and Rockingham counties report the number of nonfatal and fatal overdoses in their communities were fairly steady in 2017, with some small increases and decreases.

Rochester is an outlier. Based on incomplete data through part of December, Police Capt. Jason Thomas said the number of nonfatal overdoses nearly doubled in the Lilac City from 121 in 2016 to 218 in 2017. However, the number of fatal overdoses only increased from 17 in 2016 to 20

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By Judi Currie

DOVER — The holiday season is traditionally a time for celebrating with family and friends, but for people in recovery from addiction these gatherings can present additional challenges.

SOS Recovery Director John Burns and Rich Salvati, a capacity building specialist, said there are good options and the recovery community goes the extra mile to provide safe and welcoming environments.

SOS Recovery Community Organization is a collaborative of peers in recovery from substance misuse and abuse and their allies working together to create safe spaces and peer-based recovery supports throughout Strafford County. It has centers in Dover, Durham and Rochester.

Burns said there are regular annual events on Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as additional meetings.

The Triangle Club in Dover organizes an alcohothon, a 24-hour marathon of AA meetings, but because of the construction at its facility SOS Recovery hosted it this year, and held some of its own events as well.

“In Rochester we opened up the center on Thanksgiving day where we held 10 meetings for different recovery pathways and at 2 p.m. we had dinner,” Burns said. “It was open to all.”

Burns said there were people in recovery and a lot of homeless people as well. They had three turkeys and a lot of food and about 30 to 35 volunteers.

“About 50 to 60 people came through during the day,” he said. “The holidays are tough for people in recovery. It’s important we do everything we can to make supports accessible.”

Salvati said sometimes people in recovery really don’t like the holidays. “They may be estranged from family members or there’s been a lot of bad stuff in the past or they may have lost a parent,” he said. “Being in recovery just makes it harder.”

Burns said he was astonished by the number of volunteers who turned out to help, giving up a holiday of their own.

“What other segments can bring that many people together on a holiday just to make sure that other people are safe and have a safe place to go,” Burns said.

Salvati admitted he was pessimistic about getting the help but was wowed by the response. Burns said it was a small army of crews bringing food and donations and helping to set up.

As people in recovery head off to different holiday events and gatherings Burns said they must be mindful of their surroundings and have an escape plan.

“It’s not realistic to think that you won’t be exposed to alcohol at this time of the year,” he said. “Know your boundaries and be prepared … have a safety plan.

Burns said that is what recovery coaches work on, teaching those in recovery that it needs to be their number one priority.

“Recovery and addiction are so complex,” Burns said. “It’s different for everyone. But for me, the holidays are about providing as much connection as possible whether you’re in recovery or not. Treat people with compassion and empathy, treat each other with love, even if it’s a perfect stranger. The holidays are a good time to reflect on that.”

Salvati said recovery is simple: It’s not easy.

“When I came to work here I thought that I was a pretty open and loving and accepting person,” he said. “This organization practices a daily policy of openness and acceptance so I’m still finding…

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ROCHESTER — SOS Recovery Community Organization will be hosting a holiday multiple pathways recovery event on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Rochester. This will include a free potluck dinner open to the public at 2 p.m. on Christmas Day.

The event will run from 6 p.m. to midnight Dec. 24 at the organization’s home at 63 South Main St. inside the First Congregational Church. It will then continue on Christmas Day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Christmas Day there will be a full potluck, family style, seated holiday dinner at 2 p.m. which will be available to anyone in the community that wishes to attend and join us.

The primary goal of this event is to provide a safe and comfortable place for individuals who need a safe environment and may not have a place to go over the holidays.

According to John Burns, director of SOS Recovery Community Organization, “We offered a similar event on Thanksgiving and we recognized there are very few recovery supports or places that are open for individuals who might be struggling on holidays in Rochester and we recognize that need in the community.”

According to Elizabeth Atwood of SOS RCO, “We hope to offer a warm safe space with a lot of love and hope to those who may need that on the holidays. The First Church Congregational has been an amazing partner for SOS RCO by allowing us to use their fellowship hall for this event and Pastor Elizah Buchakjian-Tweedy has opened the doors of their Congregation for anyone attending on Christmas Eve to also join them in their services upstairs as they will be holding a 5 p.m. family friendly service, followed by a 7 p.m. and 11 p.m candlelight service.”

Anyone wishing to get involved and bring along a dish or snacks, volunteer some time, or even facilitate a meeting is welcome to contact SOS RCO at 603-841-2350 and speak to a staff member. SOS RCO will have trained coaches available throughout both events if anyone is in need of assistance or wishing help in finding or maintaining their recovery.

For more information about SOS Recovery Community Organization, go to or call 603-841-2350.

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DOVER — Enjoy the sounds of the holiday season during the free “Give This Christmas Away” Christmas concert being presented by St. John’s United Methodist Church on Sunday, Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 282 Durham Road.

The evening will feature ensembles, solos and desserts. A free will offering will be taken with all proceeds collected going to SOS Recovery Community Center in Dover. The Dover Recovery Community Center is one of three Recovery Community Centers operated by SPS Recovery Community Organization, a program of Goodwin Community Health.

SOS Recovery Community Organization is a program of Goodwin Community Health. The mission of SOS RCO is to reduce stigma and hard associated with substance misuse by providing space and peer supports for people in all stages of recovery. For more information about SOS RCO call 841-2350 or go to


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Somersworth — Deirdre Boryszewski, of Madbury, and Mark Coburn, of Rollinsford, have joined the SOS Recovery Community Organization as part-time recovery support coordinators for the organization.

“We’re excited to have both Deirdre and Mark join our recovery support team. Their experience as volunteers and recovery coaches with our organization is a great asset,” says John Burns, director of SOS RCO.

Both Boryszewski and Coburn have completed the Recovery Coach Academy. Both have served as recovery coaches and volunteered with the organization since it opened its doors in September.

Boryszewski, who has a bachelor of science degree in human services, was formerly employed with Southeastern NH Services and recently became a certified recovery support worker.

Coburn, who formerly served on the SOS RCO Advisory Board, has 40 years of experience in the construction field and was formerly a licensed realtor in New Hampshire. He is currently working toward obtaining his CRSW.

As recovery support coordinators, both Boryszewski and Coburn will support the organization’s three capacity building specialists in developing a unique set of skills and abilities to be effective across a broad range of responsibilities including providing lead support for recruitment, development and support of volunteer recovery coaches, telephone recovery support service volunteers, and other volunteer coordination including crisis response.

The mission of SOS RCO, which is a program of Goodwin Community Health, is to reduce stigma and harm associated with addictive disorders by providing safe space and peer based supports for people in all stages of recovery. For more information, go to or call 603-841-2350.

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SOMERSWORTH — The fourth largest county in the state has the second biggest opioid problem, according to the recent state figures.
The New Hampshire Drug Monitoring Initiative, a state reporting system that draws information from law enforcement, EMS and public health released a final report for 2016 as well as the latest monthly reports and Strafford County ranks second only to Hillsborough County.
Strafford County had a per capita rate of 4.39 deaths per 10,000 of population. Rockingham County, which is nearly three times the size of Strafford, had a rate of 2.99 according to the medical examiner’s office.
The latest 2017 figures show Strafford County still has the second highest suspected drug use resulting in overdose deaths.
Fentanyl is still the dominant killer and responsible for a majority of deaths, while cocaine is increasing.
Strafford County is the highest in the state for administering Narcan, the overdose reversal drug.

John Burns, of SOS Recovery, said the figures are not surprising because resources for the infrastructure needed are not being provided at a level that is consistent with the magnitude of the problem.

“There is nothing that is surprising,” Burns said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people were expecting it would turn around quickly when frankly just getting some of the rates to level off is progress.”

“I haven’t seen a single initiative since President Trump took office, other than talk,” Burns said. “At the state level, we doubled the alcohol fund but there was emergency funding included in the last biennium.”

He said without the added emergency funding the state essentially flat-funded the problem.

Burns said workforce issues continue to hamper recovery efforts. Because there was no funding for treatment, centers closed and workers moved on, now as they return to the workforce this is still a long licensing process.

“You can build all the treatment centers you want, but if you don’t have a workforce to man them that is problematic and that has been a challenge,” Burns said. “Across the spectrum, recovery supports receive minimal funding.

According to Burns, the state and country have gone decades without providing the resources needed and opioid addiction has reached a crisis point and it is not going to turn around quickly.

“When you look at how many deaths, I cannot think of any other crisis that would cause the death of this many people that would be treated with such limited resource,” Burns said. “To see that the numbers aren’t showing much improvement it any shouldn’t be a surprise.”

Burns said it is frustrating for those on the front lines to hear all the talk and see such a lack of action, but it is important to note the problem has gotten some attention.

“Here in New Hampshire we have a recovery community and providers and the boots on the ground,” he said. “You are probably not going to find more resourceful, creative and collaborative teams anywhere as you do particularly in Strafford County. When you look at what we are working with, some of the stuff that is going on, it blows my mind and I wonder how we are even pulling off what we are pulling off. It is a testimony to the recovery community, the prevention and treatment as well, who are just so dedicated.”

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NH Business Review

The United States is not doing enough to curb health care costs, primarily driven by unnecessary services, excess administrative costs and inefficiently delivered services, said Ed Prewitt, editorial director of NEJM Catalyst and keynote speaker at NH Business Review’s Health Care Trends forum held Thursday at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord.

Since 1980, U.S. health care spending has skyrocketed far beyond all other industrial nations, doubling the amount of health care spending per capita in Germany and Canada.

“We are far and away the largest user of health care per capita in the world,” said Prewitt, noting the growth started skyrocketing after 1980.

“Until then, the U.S. and other developed countries were tracking pretty closely, but it shot up. We’ve bent the cost curb just a little bit as a country. That’s still not very sustainable.”

According to the National Academy of Medicine, one-third of health care spending, or $750 billion, is unnecessary. The largest share, $210 billion, is attributed to unnecessary services, followed by excess administrative costs, at $150 billion, and inefficiently delivered services, at $130 billion. Prescriptions account for a fifth of costs, said not doing enough to curb health care costs, primarily driven by unnecessary services, excess administrative costs and inefficiently delivered services, said Ed Prewitt, editorial director of NEJM Catalyst and keynote speaker at NH Business Review’s Health Care Trends forum held Thursday at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord.

Since 1980, U.S. health care spending has skyrocketed far beyond all other industrial nations, doubling the amount of health care spending per capita in Germany and Canada.

“We are far and away the largest user of health care per capita in the world,” said Prewitt, noting the growth started skyrocketing after 1980.

The panel was comprised of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Vice President Dr. William Brewster, John Burns, director of SOS Recovery Community Organization, attorney Adam Hamel of McLane Middleton and Alex Ray, owner of The Common Man Family of Restaurants.

“Fentanyl, I know all too many people who have died recently from that drug,” said Alex Ray, owner of The Common Man Family of Restaurants (far right). “My particular thing is AA; I try to get [employees] in personally.” To Rays right (from right to left) are Adam Hamel, John Burns and Dr. William Brewster.

Burns noted that with so much attention on the opioid crisis, the greater addiction crisis is being overlooked.

“When the opioid crisis is over, it’s going to be another drug crisis,” said Burns, who listed stimulants, methamphetamines and cocaine as common additive substances, as well as alcohol.

“Alcohol kills a lot more people,” said Burns.

Approximately 70 percent of employers are reporting prescription drug misuse as a problem and almost 30 percent of employees say they have family members who are struggling with addiction, said Hamel.

“Employers should really be getting individualized advice from their attorneys or counsel,” said Hamel. “The first step is a cultural step and that is making sure you have in place policies and programs,” as well as ensuring employees there are resources available to help, often through company’s benefits providers.

Ray, who has set up two addiction centers, one of which was sold to Easter Seals, tries personally to get employees struggling with alcohol abuse into Alcoholics Anonymous, even before they can get into a treatment program, where there is often a two- to four-week waiting list.

“Most of the people who need professional help don’t have any money because they used it all, so they come and say ‘I need help’ and I say ‘What can you do?’,” said Ray.

But employers need to be careful about how they approach employees they suspect are experiencing an addiction. Hamel said employers should focus on performance as a point of conversation, asking what the company could do to help employees, allowing them to open up versus providing a diagnosis.

Creating workplaces where individuals feel safe to speak about it have a huge impact, said Burns, who spoke of his personal experience of eventually opening up to his employer at the time about his daughter’s addiction.

His employer was completely understanding and supportive, Burns said. “I had always been a loyal, hardworking employee, but I’ll tell you I would have moved mountains for them from that day on,” said Burns.


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DOVER — They’re just calling to say that they love you.
Giving love, support and access to resources to those in the early stages of drug addiction recovery is what a group of volunteers and employees SOS Recovery Community Organization on a daily basis through its telephone recovery support service, or TRSS.
The peer-support organization makes upwards of 200 calls each week to let those on the other end that someone is thinking about them and ask how they can help.
“We let them know that we’re here and we care,” said Laina Reavis, an SOS employee who runs the organization’s Dover location where the TRSS is located.
The people Reavis and other trained volunteers call are those who are unable to come into one of its three centers and get peer support from others who are in recovery themselves.
The reasons why a person can’t make it into a center varies, she said. A person may not be comfortable around other people. It could be a single mother without time to go to a meeting or a person without transportation. Some may be on bail with restrictions that limit their travel. There are a lot of barriers facing people who are in recovery, Reavis said. Those providing call support work to remove obstacles to help those in recovery be successful.
Deirdre Boryszewski is an SOS volunteer who is 15 years into her long-term recovery from an alcohol addiction. She says it was people around her who showed they cared about her when she began her recovery that helped keep her on track. That’s what she strives to do when making her calls.
It helps others continue their recovery while providing a level of internal satisfaction. Like the time Boryszewski called a woman who was in the midst of stressful day. These are the times when a person is more vulnerable to relapse.
“Thank goodness you called. I’m having such a tough day,” the woman told her. Through the talk, the woman was able to conquer the dark feelings she was experiencing that day.


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DOVER — U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan talked about the state of recovery during a crowded legislative breakfast Monday morning in Dover.
The room was filled with state senators, state representatives, service providers and those in recovery from substance misuse who came together to talk about some victories in the state of recovery and some challenges that remain, particularly in the area of funding.
Coinciding with National Recovery Month, the breakfast at the SOS Recovery Organization’s Dover’s location was titled, “State of Recovery Supports in Strafford County.” It provided an update on recovery efforts and funding challenges in the region as well as the personal stories of those in long-term recovery from substance misuse.
The breakfast came on the heels of the finalized 2016 overdose death data in New Hampshire released last week by the medical examiner’s office. In 2016, 485 people died of drug overdoses, a 10 percent increase over the 2015 death count.
John Burns, director of the SOS Recovery Organization, highlighted the death count as evidence of inaction by state and federal policymakers in the ongoing opiate crisis. “We need a lot more action and a lot less meetings,” he said. “We had 485 of our loved ones die while we’re talking about this.”

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