The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Linda Paquette

What Else are you into?

I love to fish. So I’m really looking forward to spending more time fishing.

New Futures
Longtime president retires


 Can you tell us about your background?

I grew up in a very small town of northwest New Jersey. … I then decided to go to law school and came to New Hampshire to go to UNH Law, which was then Franklin Pierce Law Center. I was in the third graduating class of UNH Law and it was a terrific experience. … I was a public defender for a number of years here in New Hampshire. … Then I taught at the law school, at UNH Law, for about 13 or 14 years. … After that, I did a lot of consulting for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, came back and took a job at the Department of Health and Human Services, organizing and then managing their administrative appeals unit. I stayed at the department for almost 14 years doing a number of things. … I left [DHHS] for the best job in the world, and that was coming to lead New Futures.
What were the biggest challenges you and the organization faced during your tenure?
We at New Futures sort of saw the handwriting on the wall about our state being vulnerable to having a really significant issue with substance use disorder. … The conditions were ripe for a significant issue. ... We had very high rates of youth substance use, we as a state did not invest enough in prevention and treatment and recovery, we were second to last in the country to have a prescription drug monitoring program, … physicians were prescribing opioids at very high rates. … And we are on a major traffic route that allowed for the transport of drugs into our state.
What are some of the things that you’re proud the organization was able to accomplish over the past few years?
[About three years ago], we held a rally at the Statehouse. At the time, the previous year there had been [about] 326 deaths by overdose. … It is the die-in. To bring about 300 people to the Statehouse wearing yellow shirts … to come out and be willing to talk about their own recovery and … talk with policymakers, it was pretty impressive and I think it ultimately made a difference in the budget for that year. … The passage of Medicaid expansion. [It was] so important because of the substance use benefit available to people now.
Right now, it seems like we did a rapid build-up for treatment and recovery but certain pieces are crumbling. Serenity Place in Manchester went into receivership last year and Hope for NH Recovery recently announced it’s closing four of its five centers. What do you think is going on?
I’m not faulting anyone for trying to build that infrastructure quickly to try to address the [opioid epidemic], but sometimes when that happens, appropriate managerial safeguards are not in place. [DHHS] I think did its best to expand available treatment options in the state, but the department itself is strapped and has lost a lot of positions over the years. When I worked at the department, in the Division of Behavioral Health, we had contract managers … [to] make sure everything was on track around their funding and their finances and so forth. … There wasn’t that kind of support necessarily available to these new treatment providers — treatment providers who previously only contracted with the State of New Hampshire. They had not been Medicaid providers. The billing is different and the way you receive reimbursement for your services is completely different, and it was a huge culture shift for the field of alcohol and drug treatment. And I think it’s to be expected that there were some issues along the way.
What does New Futures need to focus on moving forward?
Really focusing on prevention is the way to go. It’s the most cost-effective approach to the issue and really, focusing on prenatal through early childhood. … We have to make sure our children are getting a good start. … [My successor Michele Merritt] is smart, she is savvy and knows the health policy, alcohol and drug policy, early childhood policy inside and out. And I think it was a very wise decision on the part of our board — it certainly thrilled me — that they wanted to engage Michele.  
What’s next for you?
My husband … and his brother have a business, and their children, in Hooksett. So I’m going to spend a little time working with them. It’s Paquette Pools. … I serve on the board of Friends of New Hampshire Drug Court, and we’ll see.
— Ryan Lessard 

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