New Hampshire offers loan to troubled treatment center
By HOLLY RAMER
Dec. 29, 2017
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire's Executive Council approved a $180,000 emergency loan to one of the state's largest drug treatment centers on Friday a week after it was put into receivership due to financial problems.
The loan follows a judge's decision ordering a takeover of Serenity Place in Manchester, which provides residential, outpatient and support services to 3,000 clients per year.
Authorities originally said the nonprofit organization had been operating at a deficit of about $600,000 since July 1, but updated figures show that number is about $800,000, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said. The loan will be used to cover the costs of payroll and benefits for this month and next month.
The state Department of Health and Human Services is working with Families in Transition, which was appointed to takeover Serenity Place, to ensure services aren't interrupted and expects to have a transition plan drafted next week. The court system will handle the details of the receivership — a hearing is set for Jan. 23 — and the attorney general's office is investigating what led to the financial failure.
"There's going to be a lot more of an investigation but the fact that we were able to move this very quickly and seamlessly is a real testament to the folks we have involved and the organizations involved, with one goal in mind: making sure that continuity of care for individuals is maintained," said Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
All board members and officers of Serenity Place have resigned. In court documents, Executive Director Stephanie Bergeron noted that the organization's operations have grown rapidly in recent years with the opioid epidemic, with nearly 1,900 referrals from the Safe Station program in Manchester alone. Other documents note severe cash flow difficulties caused by faulty billing for Medicaid services.
Several members of the Executive Council said they hope the situation spurs broader action to ensure that the state's many nonprofit groups that provide social services and rely on volunteer boards of directors are educated about their fiduciary duties and are held accountable by the state.
Maureen Beauregard, president of Families and Transition, said she's hopeful the work being done now will ultimately result in even better options for those seeking help.
"What we're looking at is being able to make sure that the structure is there, so the services can continue and at the same time, look for permanent homes for the programs that are operating under Serenity Place," she said. "It really is going to be a more robust and strengthened continuum of care when we're done, by virtue of including a lot more organizations and spreading it out."