March 29, 2023 7:59 am

Local News

Project Would Help Military Members With Exercise Costs to Combat Substance Misuse

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Annmarie Timmins

The Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Services is seeking state approval to spend $500,000 on a new substance misuse prevention initiative that would give the state’s military members money toward a gym membership or exercise equipment.

The proposed pilot project, modeled after a fitness benefit within the state’s health insurance plan, will go before the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee Friday. It has the support of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Rigorous schedules and frequent deployment can add stressors to the lives of NH military personnel, resulting in behavioral health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance misuse,” Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette wrote in a memo to committee members. “Studies indicate that military personnel and veterans face unique stressors and often don’t seek help for behavioral health issues due to stigma and shame.”

Shibinette added that among military personnel ages 18 to 25, the rates of binge drinking are higher than those for the general population.

The benefit is intended to help military members who do not live near enough to a military base to use its gym, said Col. Richard Oberman, deputy director of joint staff at the New Hampshire National Guard. He said they are estimating 1,500 people may take advantage of the benefit; all members of the military within New Hampshire are eligible.

More specific details of the initiative are unavailable, Oberman said, because some of the $500,000 would go toward developing the program and identifying ways to measure its success.

This story was written by Annmarie Timmins, a senior reporter at the New Hampshire Bulletin, where this story first appeared.