New Hampshire voters who have lost children to opioids say the crisis is being neglected

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Plaistow, New Hampshire – Jim and Ann Marie Zanvania are Democrats, Doug Griffin is a Republican, and they all live in southeastern New Hampshire.

As their state holds its first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday, there’s one issue they agree on: The candidates need to pay more attention to the opioid crisis that is destroying hundreds of lives.

They want to hear more about treatment and recovery programs because, for them, it’s close to home.

Photo: Anne Marie and Jim Zanvania hold a poster for their organization, Angels of Addiction, at their home in Plaistow, New Hampshire, January 22, 2024.

Anne Marie and Jim Zanvania hold a poster of their organization, Angels of Addiction, at their home in Plaistow, New Hampshire, January 22, 2024.

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Sitting in a living room with soft gray walls and worn-out leather chairs, an orange cat flitting about, Jim and Anne-Marie Zanvania talked about their daughter, Jacqueline.

“Jackie was actually a bit of an introvert. She was kind of shy until she got to know the situation, and then she opened up,” her father told ABC News.

“She was creative, she was a really good writer…I thought she had a really talent for it,” her mother said.

Jackie, who had mental health issues, suffered from opioid use disorder. On October 18, 2014, she died at the age of 25 due to an accidental overdose.

Her mother painted a picture of her, capturing a moment in time in her life. Then I started drawing portraits of others for a local group, The street is mercywhere recovering addicts and families affected by addiction can come together.

Image: Portrait of Jacqueline Zanvania painted by her mother, Anne-Marie.

Portrait of Jacqueline Zanvania by her mother, Anne-Marie.

Courtesy Angels of Addiction

Since then, the Zanvania family has founded a non-profit organization, Angels of addictionAnne Marie painted hundreds of pictures of people who died from substance use disorder.

Doug Griffin of nearby Newton has one of those photos.

He told ABC News that his daughter, Courtney, was a “shining star.”

“She was smart and funny and always wanted to help someone. She was fighting drugs.”

Griffin said that when Courtney realized she was struggling with a drug addiction, she joined the Marines, but was kicked out after a test found a trace of marijuana. Shortly after returning home in 2014, she died at the age of 20 from a fentanyl overdose.

Griffin has since become an advocate for substance use disorder awareness, serving on the advisory board of Addiction Policy Forum. he is too Help find Al Rahma Street Group.

Image: Pictures by Annemarie Zanvania.  Each one has the person's name, birth and death dates on a card in the lower left corner.

Pictures by Annemarie Zanvania. Each one has the person’s name, birth and death dates on a card in the lower left corner.

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Dealing with a complex issue – on and off the campaign trail

Experts say that opioid use disorder is Medical illness It is defined by a pattern of using opioids in ways that cause distress and problems.

In New Hampshire, there have been more than 1,000 drug overdose deaths involving opioids since 2017. According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

ABC News affiliate WMUR reported More than 480 people He died in 2022 of a drug overdose in New Hampshire.

the state Offers a variety And treatment and prevention programs, as well Help for these Recovery from substance use disorder.

In mid-January, Nikki Haley, the Republican Party candidate and former governor of South Carolina, visited the Hope on Haven Hill substance use disorder recovery center in Rochester, New Hampshire. She talked about investing in mental health treatment and enabling states to spend federal money, According to the Associated Press Account visited.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley greets patients during a visit to Hope on Haven Hill Health Center, January 17, 2024, in Rochester, New Hampshire.

Republican presidential candidate and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley greets patients during a visit to Hope on Haven Hill Health Center, January 17, 2024, in Rochester, New Hampshire.

Robert F. BUKATI/AP

But much of the focus of the campaign has been on how fentanyl and other opioids are smuggled across the southern US border.

At a rally in Manchester on Saturday evening, former President Donald Trump said: “When I take office, I will end every open border policy put in place by Biden and the Biden administration… to stop deadly drugs that are poisoning and flowing into our country.” “And poisoning our people, I will deploy the US Navy.”

Photo: Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a rally ahead of the New Hampshire presidential primary in Rochester, New Hampshire, January 21, 2024.

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a rally ahead of the New Hampshire presidential primary in Rochester, New Hampshire, January 21, 2024.

Mike Segar/Reuters

Trump also criticized Haley, saying: “Nikki Haley will never secure the border or stop the fentanyl that is killing thousands and thousands of New Hampshire citizens.”

Haley said both Trump and Biden failed to adequately address the flow of fentanyl into the United States

“When it comes to the border, I don’t even know what to say; it doesn’t even look like the United States of America… We had more fentanyl crossing the border last year; this would kill every American.” Haley said at a campaign event in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on Saturday.

Officials said there is a large amount of fentanyl being smuggled across the southern US border, while highlighting that its abuse is a “societal issue” that the country needs to address.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley holds a sick child as she speaks at Hope on Haven Hill Health Center, January 17, 2024, in Rochester, New Hampshire.

Republican presidential candidate and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley holds a sick child while speaking at Hope on Haven Hill Health Center, January 17, 2024, in Rochester, New Hampshire.

Robert F. BUKATI/AP

“Nikki Haley talks about wanting to close the border, and that will help with immigration,” Griffin said. “I don’t know how big of an impact this is going to have on the drug use process… They’re going to find some way to get the drugs into the country.”

Jim Zanvania said he went to one of Haley’s events and gave her a calling card during a photo opportunity with her.

“And she was all smiling, whatever, you know; and then I said something to her to that effect [of]”I’m here because of the opioid epidemic and the issues. Her face just fell…so she was paying attention to that side of the story, what I said, which to me means she was really thinking about it.”

Wendy Gaudreau, an Angels of Addiction assistant and participant in the Mercy Street program, feels differently: “I’ve heard some of the things Nikki Haley has claimed; it’s not the worst,” she said. that”.

From a political standpoint, “I think if there was a candidate who stood up and said he was in favor of recovery-friendly communities…I think he would get a lot of votes,” Griffin said, because so many families in New Hampshire have lost someone to a substance use disorder.

Placed directly by Annemarie Zanvania.

“Where is the anger?” she asked.

Primary school and beyond

Griffin said he was still undecided, as of Monday morning, about who to vote for in the Republican primary. Regarding substance use disorder, specifically, he said he heard Haley say she would solve the problem, without providing details, when he could point to the Trump administration’s record on addressing the problem.

But Griffin highlighted that he himself worked across party lines – with the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations – to find solutions. Griffin and his wife, Pam, attended President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in 2023, where Biden referenced Courtney Griffin in his remarks.

The Zanvanias and Goudreau have not expressed mistrust of Trump on the issue.

“He doesn’t talk about it, you know…” Anne-Marie Zanvania said. “…unless he wants to talk about building his wall, which is…” Goudreau added. “That’s the only thing he talks about,” Jim Zanvania said.

Photo: Aerial view of Franconia Notch, New Hampshire

An aerial view of Franconia Notch, NH

Joe Sohm/Visions of America via Getty Images, FILE

The Zanvanis and Goodrow insist that discussions about how to solve the opioid abuse crisis must continue beyond the New Hampshire primary.

This includes steps such as educating people about drug use and abuse, reducing the cost of mental and physical health care, and helping people access the care they need quickly.

.

In the upcoming election, Griffin hopes people will talk about opioid abuse prevention as well as recovery services: “If we can avoid that, we will make a big push in elementary, middle, and high schools.” [levels]”Then we can start to really fight the drug crisis.”

“We need politicians to buy into this, to buy into the big picture. This is a national problem,” Jim Zanvania said.

Image: Pictures by Annemarie Zanvania.  Each one has the person's name, birth and death dates on a card in the lower left corner.

Pictures by Annemarie Zanvania. Each one has the person’s name, birth and death dates on a card in the lower left corner.

Letters of News

SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has a free and confidential 24/7 helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), and online at samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline. For those looking for treatment, visit findtreatment.gov.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or any mental health challenge, confidential help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call or text the National Lifeline on 988.

ABC News’ Gabriella Abdelhakim, Kelsey Walsh, Abby Cruz, Nicholas Kerr and Quinn Owen contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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