Support Groups offered at the Androscoggin Valley Hospital

BERLIN — The Androscoggin Valley Hospital will be offering a Diabetes Support Group and a Parkinson’s Support Group tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 3.

The Diabetes Support Group Meeting will meet at 6 p.m. in the AVH Mt. Adams Conference Room. Roberta Balon, MS, RD, LD, CDE, AVH Clinical Nutrition Services director, will speak about "Foods That Help Diabetes."

For more information about the Diabetes Support Group please call Roberta Balon, MS, RD, LD, CDE, at (603) 326-5692.

The Parkinson’s Support Group Meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the AVH Board Room. For more information, please call Amanda Dustin at (603) 752-2900 Ext. 2601.

Androscoggin Valley Hospital is located at 59 Page Hill Road in Berlin. For more information about upcoming classes and meetings visit

Breach of DHHS internal files

CONCORD — State Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey A. Meyers released a statement last week explaining a breach of client information stored in DHHS computers earlier this year and steps that the department has taken to close the breach, improve security and notify people who may have been affected.

Meyers said the Department of Health and Human Services learned on Nov. 4 that personal information from DHHS internal files had been posted to a social media site.

“As soon as DHHS learned of the posting of this DHHS information, it notified the New Hampshire Department of Information Technology, the N.H. State Police and other state officials. With the assistance of law enforcement, the information was removed from social media within 24 hours and a criminal investigation is ongoing,” he said, adding that DHHS and the N.H. Department of Information Technology have eliminated the source of the breach and removed the information from the website.

The information breached includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and Medicaid identification numbers for as many as 15,000 DHHS clients who received services before November 2015

The press release notes that all available information indicates that this was an isolated incident stemming from unauthorized access in October 2015 and is not the result of an external attack.

And Myers said, at this time, there is no indication that any of the information, which had been posted briefly on a social media website before officials were able to take it down, has been misused or that any credit card or banking information was accessed.

Meyers explained that the information was accessed in October 2015 by an person who was then a patient at New Hampshire Hospital, using a computer that was available for use by patients in the library of the hospital.

Although staff members at the hospital were aware that the patient had accessed non-confidential DHHS information, they did not know that any confidential information had been accessed. They restricted access on the computer but did not notify hospital management or DHHS at that time.

In August, a security official at the state hospital informed DHHS that the former patient may have posted some DHHS information on social media in August, but, again, investigation did not reveal evidence that confidential information had been breached.

Then on Nov. 4, DHHS was informed by state hospital security that the individual had that day posted confidential, personal information to a social media site. State officials and law enforcement were immediately informed, and the personal information was removed.

Meyers noted that DHHS is following all federal and state requirements regarding a breach of protected health information and personal information and is complying with requirements to notify anyone who may have been affected to inform them that their protected health and personal information may have been accessed and what self-protection measures they can take.

Anyone who received services from DHHS prior to November 2015 may wish to take steps to monitor their credit and bank statements. Individuals can protect themselves from incidents of identity theft or fraud by reviewing their account statements and monitoring their credit.

Any suspicion of identity theft or fraud may be reported to local law enforcement or the Consumer Protection Bureau at the New Hampshire Department of Justice (1-888-468-4454 or (603) 271-3641).

DHHS is making available a toll-free telephone number that affected individuals may call with questions about this incident. The toll-free number is 1-888-901-4999.

DHHS is also posting notice and additional information regarding this incident on their website,

“Safeguarding the personal, financial and medical information of DHHS clients is one of this department’s highest priorities. DHHS will continue to work with state agency partners to make every effort to ensure that the Department’s data remains secure,” Meyers said.

State reports increase in tobacco retail sales to youth in 2015

New Hampshire tobacco retail sales to youth were higher in 2015 than in the previous year, according to a new report from the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. A survey of 338 randomly selected licensed tobacco outlets across the state found that 16.6 percent of tobacco retail sales in 2015 were to children under that age of 18, an uptick from 2014, when 14.4 percent of sales were to youth.

“We’ve seen a slight but troubling increase in tobacco sales to young adults in recent years,” said Joe Harding, director of the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services at DHHS. “Using tobacco is unsafe at any age, but poses a greater risk to the developing brains of New Hampshire youth. As a result, DHHS is working with the Division of Liquor Enforcement to develop a more diverse array of products and tools to educate merchants and youth.”

The number of sales to youth is not the same as actual tobacco use among youth. According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the rates of youth smoking in New Hampshire have declined 10.5 percent over the past five years, from 27.9 percent in 2011 to 17.4 percent in 2015.

However, while use of tobacco products among youth is on the decline, some young smokers purchase products directly from a licensed tobacco retailer. Data from the 2015 YRBS shows that 13.6 percent of the 14,837 students who answered this question report they get their cigarettes from a store or gas station, indicating a need to improve merchant education and enforcement in New Hampshire.

“Obviously we strive for 100 percent compliance with New Hampshire’s tobacco laws, but these data show we have work to do,” Harding said. “We understand that some retailers struggle with turnover and we are developing tools to help them train staff and educate the public about the state’s tobacco laws and related penalties.”

The data were captured by the Synar compliance check program, a federally mandated effort from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, and includes reports from 338 merchants randomly selected out of 1,488 tobacco-licensed outlets across the state.

In accordance with federal tobacco regulations, states are required to provide detailed information on progress made in enforcing youth tobacco access laws. The Annual Synar Report format provides the means for states to comply with the reporting provisions of the Public Health Services Act (42 U.S.C. 300x-26) and Tobacco Regulation for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (45 C.F.R. 96.130 (e)).

The results of the report, 16.6 percent of sales to minors, is below the federal Synar requirement of less than 20 percent.

To read the full version of the 2017 N.H. Synar Results, visit the DHHS BDAS data page at

Cutline: Students from Unity Christian School visit nursing home

Unity Christmas VisitStudents from the Unity Christian School in Berlin visiting the St. Vincent nursing home. The residents loved the music and smiles the students brought. What a great way to share in the holiday spirit. One of the students went around the entire room accompanied by their teacher to hug each and every one of the residents. What a great first visit! It won't be their last. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Telephone Recovery Support for North Country residents

As the winter brutal cold-season is hitting us very hard many individuals with SUD have limited transportation. Berlin has many shut in folks who can not walk to our center as well as those who have disabilities that limit their mobility. The Hope-Berlin Recovery Center offers; anyone who is interested we offer Telephone Recovery support. Our team of recovery coaches are calling our neighbors around the north country if they want to have us check in with them and support them on their recovery journey.
We encourage you and your organization or agency to connect your clients, patients or community members to call the center at 752-9900. We are open Monday through Friday 9-5 and evening outside groups hold mutual aid and more joining in the new year. On tap will be parenting and family support groups, homecomers returning from being incarcerated, Veterans groups and more. Our daily schedule is on our Berlin Recovery Center Facebook Page. Please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for our daily schedule. Please stop by for a visit and coffee and bring some literature back to your businesses.
Happy holidays and a joyous new year. Please feel free to forward this email across the north country.