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Smith speaks at drug awareness vigil

Littleton Police Chief Paul Smith spoke at Thursday evening’s Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education vigil in Bethlehem. He discussed the grave threat that drug abuse poses to society, as well as law enforcement’s effort to combat the problem. Darin Wipperman/The Littleton Courier. (click for larger version)
October 31, 2012
BETHLEHEM — Several speakers and dozens of attendees met at the Bethlehem gazebo Thursday night to remember those lost to drug abuse. Speakers included Littleton Police Chief Paul Smith.

The Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) Task Force sponsored the event. Other vigils took place around the country last week.

Doris Pinard, organizer of the Bethlehem event, said that education is a key means to fight drug abuse and help victims. She noted the documents available at the event. These resources can help those in need, or loved ones wishing to help those trapped in the cycle of addiction.

"We are opening the doors to recovery," Pinard said. As she praised efforts to fight drug abuse, Pinard set a positive tone. "This, my friends, is hope . . . The time for change is now," she said.

Smith mentioned some startling statistics during his speech. He noted that overdose deaths in New Hampshire have increased 500 percent in the last 15 years. "The North Country is not immune from this problem," Smith said.

Law enforcement agencies do not just fight crimes related to drug abuse, Smith said. There are a range of thefts and violence committed in order to finance drug habits, he continued.

Smith said, however, that the law enforcement community is not just focused on punitive measures. "We also support proactive programs like drug courts and mental health courts," the Chief said. These programs can clear legal records for those who commit to rehabilitation and productive citizenship.

One of Smith's main points was the danger of prescription drugs. Such leftover medicines can be used by addicts to further their habit. "Throw away old prescription drugs," Smith implored.

Drug takeback programs are a means for law enforcement to decrease prescription drug abuse. Smith informed the crowd that New Hampshire's recent takeback event collected 4,528 pounds of old medicines. The nation reported more than 244 tons collected during the effort, Smith continued.

Nancy Basset of St. Johnsbury spoke after Smith. She talked about her personal journey of addiction and recovery. She lost her husband to drugs, but has been drug free for over 12 years.

Basset stated the importance of helping those who struggle with drug abuse. "Peered recovery support is very important," she said from personal experience. She praised NOPE's ongoing work to help those in need.

Michelle Boynton spoke as a family member impacted by drug abuse. She pointed the crowd toward the memorial wall constructed for the event. About 150 people lost to drug abuse were pictured on the wall. "I'm so struck by the faces and the ages of the people up there," she said.

Chuck Wild delivered an address pointing toward hope. Like Boynton, Wild has lost family members to the drug epidemic. "Life has a way of chipping away at our hearts," Wild said. He concluded, "My message for you tonight is courage."

The crowd held lighted candles during the speeches. The illumination was both a sad and optimistic symbol that set the tone for the evening.

Further information can be found at www.nopetaskforce.org

Martin Lord Osman
Town of Brookfield
Town of Brookfield
Varney Smith
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