NEW CASTLE — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen spoke about several key health issues facing the state and the nation Friday night when she addressed the New Hampshire Medical Society's annual Scientific Conference dinner, held at the Wentworth by the Sea hotel.
Dr. James Potter, vice president of the NH Medical Society, said they are the fourth oldest medical society in the country, founded by Josiah Bartlett in 1791.
"We meet annually to discuss trending and topical issues relative to the medical community," said Potter. "For example, earlier we had a panel discussion of PFAS, with key women spearheading the push for studies in New Hampshire. We heard from Laurene Allen from Merrimack Clean Water and Andrea Amico from Testing for Pease."
Shaheen said she was asked to address three topics, where the country stands in terms of health care reform, the opioid crisis and PFAS.
According to the EPA, "PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects."
"We are at ground zero at Pease on this topic," said Shaheen. "People like Andrea Amico have pushed for testing on the long-term effects of PFAS. We feel the Air Force and Department of Defense should help fund studies. Every military installation in the country has been touched by PFAS. The sooner we learn the health impact, the better."
"It's been an interesting week, with the mid-term elections," said Shaheen. "Health care came across as one of the most important issues to be addressed in Washington. I hope we will continue to find ways to expand health care access but I fear it is not the goal of the current leadership. This is frustrating because I feel it is possible to make changes to the Affordable Care Act, to improve on what we have. One challenge is the administration's efforts to undermine the ACA."
In New Hampshire, Shaheen said they are expecting to see an increase in enrollment this year. with about 54,000 people expected to sign up during the current enrollment period.
"There are ways we can work with the administration," said Shaheen. The president said he is interested in taking on the cost of prescription drugs. And, we did come together to invest in research, particularly in the areas of cancer and infectious diseases, like Lyme."
Fixes to the current opioid crisis will not happen overnight, warned Shaheen. But she talked about the recent passage of over $3 billion in funding, with extra allocation to the states hardest hit, including New Hampshire.
"New Hampshire will receive $23 million, seven times what we had the year before," said Shaheen. "We want to use that to make access to treatment closer for people who need it. We want to look at what works and what doesn't. We want to help families and will help with foster care and housing needs."
Shaheen said they are also increasing the number of people doctors can treat with medically assisted treatment, and to include physician assistants and nurse practitioners in those numbers of people who can treat people with a substance abuse disorder.
"We know a lot needs to be done," said Shaheen. "We need to listen to all of you to determine what we need to pursue."