Jun 12, 2018

Looking Locally Before Going Global: Fellows Visit the New Hampshire State House

By Rachel E. Brooks, Program Manager, Center for Business, Government & Society

On Friday, May 11, the outgoing cohort of Business, Government & Society fellows had the opportunity to visit the New Hampshire State House and meet with an impressive group of government officials. The trip, organized with the help of Governor John Lynch, one of the Center for Business, Government & Society’s senior fellows, served as a capstone to the fellows’ experiences, which included fellow-led  seminars on topics from income inequality and the business case for paying living wages to the ethics of Facebook’s business model. Teams of fellows researched issues at the intersection of business, government and society, including gentrification, the impact of machine learning on journalism, stakeholder capitalism, the impact of sugary beverages, and B-Corporations. During this trip, the focus was on the roles of New Hampshire’s state government business in solving pressing community needs.

The guest speakers included the Senate President, the Commissioner of Health and Human Safety, the Commissioner of the Department of Safety, the Governor, the Secretary of State, and a member of the Judiciary. The fellows framed the day’s discussions around health and education. The public servants addressed a set of key issues, including the state budget, the organization of the state government and election voting inclusion and integrity. Much of the conversation touched on addiction and the opioid crisis in particular.  

Governor Chris Sununu spoke about the issue of addiction, noting that statistics on alcoholism, opioids, and other substances show New Hampshire to be  one of the most addicted states. (Sobering statistics from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’s Drug Monitoring Initiative reports can be found here.) Speakers reiterated the importance of responding to the opioid crisis as a chronic disease and the need to better peer recovery services. Speakers shared statistics showing a decline in prescription rates but noted that this does not change the fact that people are still accessing and using substances even after their prescriptions have ended.

Citing the problem of  “compassion fatigue,” the Commissioner of the Department of Safety described the exhaustion that can overwhelm people trying to help those suffering from addiction and explained why the state was taking such care to emphasize the importance of counseling as a support mechanism for family members and friends as well as CPR and other training that can be life-saving at a critical moment. Catherine Boysen, one of the Center’s fellows, explained, “Seeing an issue like the opioid addiction crisis from the perspective of the police force, the Commissioner of Health and Human Services, and the Governor highlighted the need for coordination and buy-in from all stakeholders in addressing the problem.” She continued that the trip was helpful to “understand their approach tackling complex issues facing the state and the nation.”

The day was filled with meaningful discussions and insightful responses to poignant questions. Ramon Fuentebella, Center fellow, felt “inspired by the speakers who showed us much passion and wisdom in leading New Hampshire. I also learned a lot from my co-fellows and the senior fellows who asked very thoughtful questions that brought out deeper underlying issues into the discussion.” Students and government officials reflected on the past and expressed hope for the future. As the group left the State House to return to Hanover, some fellows commented that the visit was one of their favorite experiences while at Tuck. Center fellow Josh Feller shared, “The State House trip was a capstone experience of the fellowship and my time at Tuck. After talking through numerous issues at the intersection of business and government during the course of the year, this trip provided a chance to learn the complex and challenging process of designing and implementing solutions to improve public outcomes.”