Opioid Counseling Opens in Exeter

Catholic Charities New Hampshire and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Exeter launched a substance use counseling program in Exeter this month to better address the community’s ability to respond to the statewide opioid epidemic.

The non-profit human service agencies developed the initiative in response to requests from Exeter police, Exeter Hospital and others seeking a local site to which drug users could go for screening and referral to treatment.  The program also offers individual and group counseling.

By collaborating on this effort, Catholic Charities’ Counseling Services and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Exeter hope to meet the needs of Seacoast residents struggling with opioid and other substance use disorders.

“It is part of the mission of Catholic Charities to move lives forward, and we are excited to join St. Vincent’s in reaching out to those in need of addiction services,” said the Rev. John J. Mahoney Jr., who is director of clinical services at Catholic Charities and a licensed clinical mental health counselor.

The program enables Catholic Charities to expand direct care services into Exeter through the debut of its new Substance Use Services unit.

“The collaboration between the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Exeter and Catholic Charities is significant because we were not in a position to provide direct clinical care. By partnering with Catholic Charities, we are now able to address the opioid crisis on a local level,” Society of St. Vincent de Paul Exeter executive director Molly Zirillo explained.

“Due to the sliding-scale fees, the counseling services are accessible to all who qualify,” Zirillo added.

Under the agreement, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Exeter provides confidential counseling space at its center at 53 Lincoln St. Catholic Charities, in turn, assigns a member of its specialized Substance Use Services unit to staff the center every Monday. A master licensed alcohol and drug counselor conducts intake, assessment and refers to treatment those who come to the center seeking help. The counselor also is available for outpatient individual and group counseling. Call 603-319-5003 for an appointment or more information.

“This partnership will allow the Exeter Police Department to either transport or refer a person in need of assistance to St. Vincent de Paul to be connected with a substance use counselor,” Exeter Police Chief William Shupe said.

Shupe approached the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Exeter last fall about developing a program similar to the Alliance for Substance Use Prevention program in Newmarket.

“I felt that the Town of Exeter needed a similar program – an alliance in Exeter where assistance and resources were available for those dealing with heroin and other substance abuse issues,” Shupe explained.

Catholic Charities also expanded its services in Nashua to assist churches coping with the opioid crisis. A master licensed alcohol and drug counselor now staffs the Nashua district office at 261 Lake St. every Tuesday.

“The opioid crisis has hit Nashua particularly hard and nobody was sure exactly what to do when somebody shows up at the rectory door and either wants direct care services for themselves or someone in their family needs treatment,” Mahoney explained.

“Pastors are also telling me they’re doing more and more funerals for opioid-related overdoses,” he said.

The creation of the Substance Use Services unit and expansion of counseling services into Exeter and Nashua partly evolved from the success of the “Families Coping with the Opioid Crisis” presentations Catholic Charities has held since last fall. Many who attended the sessions on addiction’s impact on the family sought out direct care for themselves and their loved ones, Mahoney said.

“We started out helping to heal families impacted by the opioid crisis and now we are reaching out into direct care initiatives to help heal individuals who are suffering with addiction and substance use disorders,” Mahoney explained.