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Local law enforcement share their perspectives on the opioid crisis at county forum

"We're losing a generation," commented Tuftonboro Police Chief Andy Shagoury speaking on the issue of child trauma associated with parental substance misuse. Children are living with grandparents because their parents are on drugs, said Shagoury. To the right are Jason Henry, Superintendent of the Carroll County House of Corrections, and Michaela Andruzzi, Carroll County Attorney. (Photo by Elissa Paquette) (click for larger version)
May 31, 2017
SANDWICH — Sandwich Chief Doug Wyman was instrumental in bringing attention to the effects of the drug crisis on Carroll County residents in coordination with the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health two years ago. This year's forum on May 16 at the Sandwich Fair grounds marked a return to that discussion.

Emily Benson, Public Health Advisory Coordinator with the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, introduced panelists on the topics of Safety and Law Enforcement, Healthcare, Education, Government and Community Support throughout the day.

This second in a series of articles on the forum features the perspectives of members of the law enforcement community, who shared information on their stepped up and coordinated response. The panel included Chief Wyman, Tuftonboro Chief Andy Shagoury, Superintendent of the Carroll County House of Corrections Jason Henry, Carroll County Prosecutor Michaela Andruzzi and Executive Director of the White Mountain Restorative Justice Center Lance Zack.

All told, there are programs in the works now that were not in place two years ago, all of which depend on financial support from the state and federal government. An opening video from Senator Jeanne Shaheen stated that New Hampshire's substance misuse crisis is her priority, and that includes protecting Medicaid from cuts.

Wyman spoke of a regional drug grant applied for through the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, Granite Hammer, to distribute funds to area departments for interdiction efforts. Also, Narcan kits were distributed to three police departments. Wyman also said the D.A.R.E. Program has returned to the Sandwich Central School, with a revamped curriculum that includes decision making and training on needle disposal.

Shagoury also drew attention to Granite Hammer, a program funded by the state ($2.4 million in the biennial budget - $1.2 annually) originally for interdiction efforts by the NH state police and the Manchester Police Department to arrest drug dealers that now extends into Carroll County.

Lawrence, Mass. is a hub for drug distribution, heroin in particular, said Shagoury who added, ["Distributors] are turning our residents into dealers." He commented that heroin is now being produced in pill form and expressed alarm at the increase in deadly Carfentenyl.

He is pleased that state money is also going towards an increase in staff to handle the back log in the state's forensic labs, a means to speeding up resolution of cases. He said the Tuftonboro Police Department was able to get results back quickly in a drug related death investigation and bring it to a successful conclusion.

On another side of enforcement, dealing with those who are incarcerated, Superintendent of the Carroll County House of Corrections Jason Henry shared aspects of the Trust Program offered inhouse to prisoners at high risk to return to jail. Henry said that of twenty inmates who have gone through the program so far, no one has returned.

Henry disclosed that surveys show that the average age of the first use of illegal substances is age 12. Teens end up involved with the courts, the Carroll County Attorneys office, Probation when they are sentenced they are enrolled in the Trust Program. It's an 18 month process, said Henry, noting that it takes about nine months to retrain the brain.

He stated that he would like to have a half time drug counselor and a half time social worker to provide aftercare.

Henry stated that in the the past six months, he's seen an explosion of drug use. The availability of Narcan has saved two lives at the jail. He said had an inmate who had just achieved his freedom go out the door into the parking lot and immediately shoot up heroin. Fortunately they had it onsite. "It's a disease that's hard to break," he said.

Executive Director of the White Mountain Restorative Justice Center Lance Zack, who helps guide teens through the court process seeking alternative sentencing solutions, concurred with the figures on the onset of substance abuse at the age of 12 in New Hampshire, and added that in most other states it is 15. Of his last 145 cases, said Zack, the percentage of those related to drug use has gone from 15 percent to 85 percent.

He noted the increase in the use of amphetamines "taking root" in the state and stressed that it is a community problem in need of a community solution.

Zack posited that childhood trauma is at the root of the substance misuse issues that arise at an early age. To that end, more supports need to be put in place.

Carroll County Attorney Michaela Andruzzi commented that everyone has to work together as she pointed out that substance misuse affects families and juveniles. Even people who were once star athletes. She reported that the Felonies First program is in place, which requires that a prosecutor see a person within 24 hours of the arrest. She said she has also assigned one of the prosecutors to the emerging Drug Court program.

A member of the audience asked what parents can do to help their kids avoid the pitfalls of substance misuse. "As a parent, you need to get involved," responded Wyman, "and you need to be able to say 'No'."

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