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Forum discusses governmental efforts to deal with drug crisis

REP. ED BUTLER (D-Harts Location) offered a legislative rundown pertaining to efforts on a number of fronts to counter drug trafficking and support those affected by the substance misuse of epic proportions in our state at the "Pathways from Silence to Solutions, Carroll County Responds to Substance Use Disorders," a forum held on May 16, at the Sandwich Fair Grounds. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
May 25, 2017
[Editor's Note: This is the first of three articles on countywide efforts to deal with substance use disorders.]

SANDWICH — State Representative Ed Butler (D-Harts Location) contributed a run down on legislative moves to counter drug trafficking and support citizens during his time on stage with panel members speaking on governmental engagement with the statewide substance misuse crisis.

The forum, "Pathways from Silence to Solutions, Carroll County Responds to Substance Use Disorders," sponsored by the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, took place on May 16 at the Sandwich Fair Grounds. Law enforcement from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, State Police Troop E, and police officers from around the county, educators and social workers, and health care providers were all in evidence during the all day event.

Rep. Karel Crawford (R-Moultonborough) and Rep. Bill Marsh (R-Brookfield) were the only other state representatives from among the 15 comprising the Carroll County Delegation seen in the audience.

Butler was joined at the dais by Chris Scott, Policy Advisor to Jeanne Shaheen; James Vara, Esq., Gov. Chris Sununu's advisor on addiction and behavioral health; Amanda Bevard, Carroll County Commission Chairman; and April Allin: Region 7 Integrated Delivery Network Program Manager.

New Hampshire's Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Treatment Fund, originated with commitment of 5 percent funding each year from gross profits of the sale of alcohol overseen by the State Liquor Commission, has only been funded at that rate, once, in 2003.

Butler reported that in the last budget process the law was amended to specify that 1.7 percent of gross profits would go to the fund. Governor Chris Sununu has proposed doubling that to 3.4 percent in this year's budget.

An online reading of SB 196, a Senate bill introduced in January with a recommendation of 5 percent, includes the information that "Gross profits were $194.5 million in FY 2016 according to the Liquor Commission. Had the increase been applicable to FY 2017, this would have resulted in an increase of approximately $6.4 million ($9,725,000 at 5%, minus $3,330,650 at 1.7% = $6,394,350) in the amount deposited into the Fund.

The bill, to take effect July 1, was amended to 3.4 percent by the Senate on Feb. 23.

Butler noted that the Operation Granite Hammer program, passed last summer with the urging of former Governor Maggie Hassan and supported by State Senator Jeb Bradley, now called Granite Shield, provides $1.5 million for the NH State Police and the Manchester Police Department to arrest drug dealers.

Also, said Butler, for the first time a syringe exchange program has passed. It is expected to reduce the transmission of Hepatitis C. HB 157 also passed, adding chronic pain to qualifying conditions under therapeutic use of cannabis. In addition, the Senate passed the full day kindergarten bill that is now pending in the House. It proposes targeting up to $9 million in aid per each year of the biennium for communities that choose to establish a full-day program. Butler said providing kindergarten has the added benefit of identifying students at risk from the fallout of substance misuse.

Scott said with around 470 drug related deaths in 2016, adding "we can't arrest and can't legislate our way around it." There has to be an equal emphasis on prevention. He mentioned the federal S.2241 Combat Heroin Epidemic and Backlog Act of 2015 sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen that will help address and prevent testing backlogs, a situation that the state forensics lab has been dealing with.

The bill authorizes the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance to award grants to state and tribal governments to address the distribution, sale, and use of heroin, fentanyl, and associated synthetic drugs.

Vara urged those in the crowd, all of whom are in the frontlines of the crisis, to look ahead at the next curve, i.e., Methamphetamine and alcohol. "We have to invest in prevention," said Vara.

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Martin Lord Osman
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