Our Community Health Improvement Plan:
SCPHN 2nd Annual Report to the Community


Your Brain and Addiction

When Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in 1971, no one anticipated that it would be one of the longest running wars in history and continue today.  In 1987, the Partnership for a Drug Free American launched its “This is your brain on drugs” campaign, illustrating the rapid frying of a cracked egg in a hot pan.


The brain does change when you use substances. The human brain is the most complex organ in your body. It controls all human activity and intellect.  Drug use will affect the way your brain functions and your behavior in a significant way.

When you engage in an activity that you enjoy, your brain releases a hormone called Dopamine.  Dopamine can be released while running, painting, doing art projects or eating a great cupcake. Even something as simple as drinking water can cause the reward system to be activated. It is how we survive. This is how pleasurable habits are formed.  When we do something that causes dopamine to be released and we are rewarded with a good feeling, we go back to that activity to achieve that feeling again.

How does all of this play into addiction? Some pleasurable habits can be good; running every day is good for the cardiovascular system, muscular system, and skeletal system.  Negative and dangerous habits form in the same way.  Some examples of bad habits are overeating, misusing medication or other substances or drinking too much alcohol.

For some, it starts as experimentation. A person may try a particular substance for the first time. In this example, consider the substance to be an opioid.  The first time a person tries an opioid, the brain lets it in because it causes more dopamine to be released and the pleasure sensors in the brain are stimulated. With such a strong pleasure reward, the brain will crave more and more.  Over time, previously pleasurable activities like exercise or good food become less appealing as the brain becomes rewired to demand the pleasure provided through the opioid.

Harvard School of Public Health tells us that “Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. (2011)

Your brain can recover.  “Like other chronic diseases such as heart disease or asthma, treatment for drug addiction usually isn’t a cure. Nevertheless, addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s disruptive effects on their brain and behavior and regain control of their lives. (National Institueon Drug Abuse (NIDA, 2016)


There are many different types of treatment programs available. Treatment helps the individual detox from the opioid and manage the cravings. Many of them also teach coping skills and how to build strong social networks to help avoid relapse. As time goes on, the brain adapts to treatment, the urges are less prevalent, and the individual can begin again to enjoy other pleasurable activities in their lives.


Looking for more information on your brain and addiction? Check out these links:



Treatment Defined: Part 3

This is the third and last in the “Treatment Defined” series.  The purpose of this series has been to help readers understand what types of treatment are available, define them, offer resource information and simplify the language of treatment overall.

Previously we have described individual and group counseling as well as outpatient services. Lastly, we are going to talk about inpatient services. In this series segment, we are going to offer information on

  • Short term residential programs
  • Long term residential programs, and
  • Detox programs

Please remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to treatment options.  The inpatient resources described below may be a perfect fit for some but other individuals may find success in an outpatient setting might do better with outpatient. Please consult your doctor or call the NH Helpline to talk a clinician at 844-711-4357 or 211.

  1. Detoxification/Detox: Offered to assist an individual in the early stages of withdrawal from substance use, a detox program is a safe and monitored environment where trained health and social service professional can support individuals as they allow substances to filter out of their systems and manage the associated symptoms to minimize side effects.
  1. Short-term residential programs: An intensive, structured setting using a modified 12-step program. For this type of program, individuals usually spend 3-6 weeks in a hospital like setting before they begin outpatient therapy or self-help groups. The outpatient therapy portion is an important part of this program as it helps reduce the risk of relapse and helps the individual form new social bonds.  
  1. Long-term residential programs: Offer care 24/7 in a non-hospital setting. Residence will vary between 6 and 12 months. These programs are generally very structured.  Treatment in an environment of this type will rely on what is known as “social context” to help the individual identify ways to learn new, beneficial behaviors in a carefully while also learning to resist previous behaviors and unhealthy settings and relationships that might hinder recovery.

In this region, there are four (4) residential treatment options – three are located in Manchester. They are The Farnum Center, Cypress Center, and Westbridge Community Services (men only).  In addition, Hampstead Hospital offers detox services in the region as well as other inpatient and outpatient services.

Please remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to treatment options.  The inpatient resources below may be a perfect fit for some but other individuals may find success in an outpatient setting.   Consider which option might meet your needs.  Also, please consult your doctor or call the NH Helpline to talk a clinician at 844-711-4357 or 211 for additional information. .

Hampstead Hospital: http://www.hampsteadhospital.com/chemical_dependency.htm

Farnum Center: www.farnumcenter.org

Cypress Center: https://www.mhcgm.org/how-we-can-help/our-facilities/

Westbridge Community Services: https://www.westbridge.org/

Please look at the South Central Public Health Network Resource Guide for more information.



Old Home Day – Safe Home Day

For over 100 years, Old Home Day has been observed in towns across NH as a way to celebrate the community and reconnect with friends and neighbors.  Many towns in the Granite State celebrate Old Home Day with parades, barbeques, games, and fireworks.  These events are well organized, well attended, and enjoyed by the young, old, and everyone in between. Let us all safely celebrate our towns in the great state of New Hampshire and ensure that good times, good food, and good company are the only things being reported in the news!

To keep you, your family, your friends, and neighbors safe during these joyous festivities, please follow these simple safety tips:

  • When driving to your town’s Old Home Day, be aware of the increased number of pedestrians in the area.  Slow down and observe traffic signals and crossing guards.
  • When walking, cross the street only with a crossing guard, or at an intersection with a walk signal. If these are not available, walk at a crosswalk looking both ways: Left-Right-Left, then make eye contact with drivers as you cross.
  • Put your phone down when walking (and driving) and be aware of
    your surroundings (situational awareness).
  • Be mindful of choking hazards when collecting small giveaways from parades or booths.
  • Use sunscreen and wear a hat. Parade routes are not typically in the shade.
  • If you are attending celebrations at night, wear light colored clothing and or reflective gear. Carry a flashlight and use insect repellent for mosquitos. Give your children glow sticks to use at night – they are a fun way to make your child more visible. (You may find a good deal on glow sticks at a dollar store near you!)
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and healthy.  
  • Carrying a little bottle of hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes is always a good idea to keep your hands clean, especially before eating some of that delicious homemade fair food!

Old Home Day is also a great place for children to practice being independent, but only when parents feel that they are ready. Before heading over to the festivities remind children of the above safety tips and review the additional tips below:

  • Phone Down-Heads up! Never walk while looking at your phone! Take your headphones out to hear the sounds of traffic.
  • Stay in the celebration areas. Don’t wander away.
  • Do not dart into the street or cross between parked cars.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths.  If there are none, then walk facing traffic and as far to the left as possible.
  • Drink water, not soda to stay hydrated and healthy.

Have your child watch this interactive presentation from Safe Kids Worldwide before going out.


Be safe, stay healthy, and enjoy celebrating your community with family, friends, and neighbors!

The Paths to Recovery – Treatment Defined, Part 2

What works best for you?

In our first post of this series, a broad overview of services available as you consider positive change was presented. It included counseling services: individual and group (aimed at readiness preparation and behavior change considerations). Groups were discussed including 12 step programs, as they are excellent to consider in conjunction with each counseling type and provide the peer-to-peer opportunity not found in a one on one setting.

Outpatient care is often a next step in treatment.  Whatever path you choose, high quality outpatient support can make a huge difference in your journey.

Outpatient programs can vary from organization to organization depending on the intensity of the program.  There is no hospital or facility stay.  This is good for people with strong social supports already in place like close family or friends who support the desire to change and can have a positive influence on the process.  In addition, it is sometimes helpful to have a member of your support network travel with you to appointments (when needed) or just be available to listen and be a sounding board for you before and after sessions.  Outpatient care is less expensive than residential programs.  Such programs are often able to address and treat co-occurring mental health disorders as well as the substance misuse issue.  Many outpatient models use group counseling in their models as a part of the service menu.

Outpatient programs are the most popular type of treatment available in this region. There is Hampstead Hospital in Hampstead, Granite Recovery Center in Salem, Addiction Recovery Services in Salem, and Crossroads Recovery in Salem just to name a few. There is also Aware Recovery that is a statewide, in home recovery service. They are based in Bedford but they have a team that travels to different locations.

One size does not fit all, so take the time to speak with people at several facilities to see if you feel a connection at a particular program.  Below are the links to the services mentioned above:

For information on a wide range of other treatment and recovery resources in the region, please take the time to look at the South Central Public Health Network Resource Guide for more information. http://southcentralphn.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/SCPHN-Resource-Guide.pdf

The Paths to Recovery – Treatment Defined, Part 1

Understanding your options for regaining your health and sobriety and be very stressful. It is hard to digest the vast amounts of information available to you.

Descriptions of treatment types can be confusing.  One size does not fit all and the language of recovery may not always make sense to you. In this series of posts, we will discuss each type of service you might access if you are contemplating change or at a minimum are thinking about speaking with a professional about making a change.

Today we are introducing some first steps you might take when working towards change:

  • Individual Counseling:  A personal meeting with a professional who will speak with you about more than your use of substances.  He or she will have a conversation with you about your living situation, strong or faltering relationships with family and friends, employment, legal history and your goals. 
  • Pursuit of Behavior Change:  There are resources in the community to take advantage of if you are interesting in examining the path the led you to this place and looking at ways to change your patterns of behavior to support your desire to be substance free.  There are experienced professionals ready to help through the following organizations:
  • Group Counseling:  Group work is a very viable option and becoming more popular and effective for some people.  Some example locations are:
  • 12 Step Programs: Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are great services and they are present in almost every town in the state. For some, peer-to-peer support is critical in recovery.  Sometimes alone or in combination with individual or group counseling 12 Step Programs play a critical and readily available supportive role in recovery.  Some locations are:

For information on a wide range of other treatment and recovery resources in the region, please take the time to look at the South Central Public Health Network Resource Guide for more information. http://southcentralphn.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/SCPHN-Resource-Guide.pdf

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month!

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month!

Lyme Disease Awareness Month may not be a reason to celebrate but it is a reason to take action! Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the nation. The best way to prevent getting Lyme disease is to take actions to avoid being bitten by a tick.


  • Avoid wooded areas with a lot of brush and leaf litter. Stay in the center of a path when possible.
  • Wear light colored clothing that will show ticks on you, preferably long sleeves, pants, and hat.
  • Use insect repellent with at least 20% DEET or with oil of lemon eucalyptus. Use the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s online tool to help you select the repellent that is best for you and your family: https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you.
  • Treat your clothes with permethrin (a non-staining insecticide used to repel and kill insects on clothing).
  • Check yourself and your pet for ticks after being outdoors.
  • Shower immediately after coming indoors and check ALL your body areas for ticks.

Tick Free NH developed this Shower Card to remind you to do a tick check every day. Tick Free NH is an initiative in New Hampshire that promotes tick awareness and provides information on preventing tick encounters. Go to their website at https://tickfreenh.org/to learn more about tick prevention, protection, and removal of ticks that can cause Lyme disease. You can also find educational materials for you to use and share with others.


If you find a tick attached to you, don’t panic! According to the CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal

there are several tick removal devices available on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick effectively.

How to remove a tick:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  1. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  2. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

Signs and Symptoms

Ticks can attach to any part of your body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or longer before Lyme disease can be transmitted. The CDC lists the following early signs and symptoms that can occur 3 to 30 days after a tick bite: (https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms)

Early Signs and Symptoms (3 to 30 days after tick bite)

  • Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes
  • Erythema migrans (EM) rash:
  • Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons
  • Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days)
  • Expands gradually over a period of days reaching up to 12 inches or more (30 cm) across
  • May feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful
  • Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bull’s-eye” appearance
  • May appear on any area of the body

It is very important to take precautions to avoid tick bites and take immediate action if you are bitten. By taking antibiotics for a few weeks, most people in the early stages of Lyme disease can be treated and will recover completely! (https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/treatment/index.html)If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system, so contact your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about a tick bite. Did you know that Lyme disease can also affect your pets? Check your pets often for ticks to ensure that they stay healthy and that they are the only creatures that you are snuggling!

For more information go to: https://www.cdc.gov/lyme, https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/lyme, & https://tickfreenh.org/

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay tick-free!

Earth Day 2018: End Plastic Pollution

Earth Day is a global event occurring on April 22 of each year. With more than one billion people from 192 countries getting involved, Earth Day is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world (https://www.earthday.org/earthday). The Earth Day Network announced that the focus for Earth Day 2018 will be to End Plastic Pollution.

For many years, we have enjoyed the convenience of using plastics, but may not have been aware of the dangers to the ecosystem and our health. Air pollution, land pollution, and water pollution all impact the ecosystem and can directly and indirectly affect our health. Burning plastic releases chemicals into the air, causing air pollution and affecting the air we breathe. Breathing in too much of this polluted air can cause respiratory ailments. When plastics are dumped into landfills, they not only take up space, but degrade, which also releases chemicals. These chemicals seep into the soil, affecting the soil’s ability to sustain plant life and produce food. These chemicals can also flow into the groundwater, tainting the water that we drink.

Many of us have been to the beach and have seen another form of water pollution. Those random items you see in the sand or floating in the ocean impact the ecosystem. Plastics in the water can harm sea life by entangling them, choking them, or causing other health problems after ingesting. The sea life that consumes these plastics could be the one on your dinner plate. Now those plastic items you see bobbing up and down in the water may not look so innocent. They could be affecting your food, drinking water, and your health.


Garrett Simonsen, South Central NH Medical Reserve Corps Volunteer is dedicated to keeping the beach in his community clean.  These are just some of the items he found while doing his part to remove plastics from our oceans.






How big is your Plastic Footprint? A Plastic Footprint is a way of measuring how much plastic you contribute to the worldwide trash pile. Reducing your plastic footprint benefits the ecosystem and decreases health risks for you, your family, and community. The Earth Day Network recommends taking five actions to reduce your plastic pollution footprint: Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, and Remove!

REDUCE: Limit your use of plastics! Instead of buying bottled water, try a water filtering system. If you forgot to bring your reusable bags to the grocery store, ask for paper bags and try to buy in bulk.  Consider bringing your own clean thermos to the coffee shop for that caffeine fix.

REFUSE: Go without a drinking straw when dining out (you could bring your own paper or reusable straw). Refuse the plastic bag from retail stores – bring your own or consolidate when making many purchases at the mall.

REUSE: Purchase items that can be used multiple times. Consider purchasing a reusable water bottle, thermos, canvas shopping bags, and glass food-storage containers.

RECYCLE: Place recycled items in a recycle bin and not the trash – if bins are not available, consider holding on to recyclable item until you find a bin. Follow your town’s rules on curbside recycling.  Encourage your workplace to recycle.


Parkland Medical Center was awarded the Partner Recognition Award in Environmental Excellence from Practice Greenhealth. Parkland diverts 32% of total waste to recycling and promotes green practices throughout the hospital.



REMOVE: Keep your community clean! Join others in your area to remove litter from parks, beaches, schoolyards, and along the sides of roads when safe to do so! (Use gloves and pay attention to dangerous objects.)

By taking small steps today, you can reduce the size of your Plastic Footprint tomorrow!

To learn more about Earth Day initiatives and other ecosystem topics, go to: https://www.earthday.org, www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/air-pollution, www.greenpeace.org/usa/10-genius-tips-reducing-plastic-footprint, www.theworldcounts.com/stories/Pollution-from-Plastic

Community Immunity

Did you know that when you and your family are vaccinated, you are protecting not only yourselves, but your community as well?  This is called Co

mmunity Immunity! Community Immunity (also known as herd immunity) can decrease or even eliminate the spread of a disease in a community if a high percentage of the population has been vaccinated for a specific disease. 

Germs travel quickly through a community and can sicken many people, leading to an outbreak.  If enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, the germs cannot travel as easily from person to person – and the entire community is less likely to get the disease.  Even some people who cannot get vaccinated will have some protection from getting sick because they will not be around as many people who are contagious.  According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,   “if a person does get sick, there’s less chance of an outbreak because it’s harder for the disease to spread. Eventually, the disease becomes rare — and sometimes, it’s wiped out altogether.” https://www.vaccines.gov/basics/work/protection/index.html 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that vaccines lower your chance of spreading certain diseases and are one of the safest ways to protect your health and the health of those around you.

Keep you and your Community healthy and immune from preventable diseases!  Don’t Wait. Vaccinate! https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/adults/downloads/fs-three-reasons.pdf

Gardening with Youth

How Gardening with Youth Can Have a Positive Affect on Their Brain, Body, and Soul! 


“We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s ours garden that is really nurturing us”
-Jenny Uglow


When planting and tending to the garden with youth there are countless scientific concepts that you can discuss. Studies have shown that children who participated in gardening projects scored higher in science achievement than those who did not. The curiosity of watching a garden grow may even spark youth to ask questions like: Why do plants need sun?, How does a plant “drink” water?, Why are worms good for plants? You can also easily add a little math to gardening by measuring how much plants grow from week to week or counting the flowers on each plant.


The act of gardening itself can promote a healthy body. Let’s face it, children love to get their hands and feet dirty. The hygiene hypothesis is a theory that says a lack of childhood exposure to germs actually increases a child’s susceptibility to diseases such as asthma, allergies, and autoimmune condition by suppressing the development of the immune system. Getting dirty while gardening may actually strengthen a child’s immune system overall health! The act of working in the garden has been shown to help youth stay calm and focused. It can also promote gross motor skills and overall strength with activities like pushing a wheel barrow, carrying a heavy water can, and using gardening tools to dig.


In the electronic age we live, youth need time for meaningful family connection that doesn’t involve screen time. Time spent in the garden allows for team building and can promote communication skills. Studies have shown that when children participate in activities such as digging and planting in soil  can improve their overall mood, stimulate better learning experiences, and decrease feelings of anxiety.

For more information please visit: http://www.nationalgardenmonth.org/index.php?page=educators or https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/gardening-for-children


Be an Advocate

Become an Advocate

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead


What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is defined as an action to speak in favor of, recommend, argue against or defend a position on behalf of oneself or others.

Have you ever heard of a policy with which you just do not agree?  Have you wanted your voice to be heard when it comes to something that is being voted on in your state, but are not sure how to go about accomplishing that?  Advocating for what you believe is your right and is not as complex as you may think.  It can be as simple as writing a letter or an email to your District Representative or Senator or placing a call to their office.   Advocacy happens concerning many issues.  It may my conducted to support or oppose and issue such as the legalization of recreational marijuana, increasing the amount of low-cost sober living facilities in the area or increasing the amount of treatment and recovery options available in your region.

Advocacy is simply the act of letting your voice be heard.  Every individual has the right to voice an opinion.

Here are three tips for contacting your representative or senator:

  1. Locate a mailing (email or physical address) for your legislative representative by using this link: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/wml.aspx
  2. Write a short letter in clear, concise and unemotional language describing your position on the issue.  Sign the letter using your full name and the town in which you reside. If you hope for a response, include contact information.
  3. If you choose to contact by phone you may have to leave a message but always ask if it would be possible for them to return your call.  Write down a few notes near your phone so that if you do receive a return call that you are prepared to speak.
  4. No matter how you choose to communicate, share a personal experience that you have had regarding the issue if possible.  Explain why the experience has shaped your position and ask for their support.

There are several excellent resources in New Hampshire for learning more, building confidence and understanding how to conduct effective individual advocacy.

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