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AG Sessions: NH drug awareness summit start of national movement

By DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader

March 07. 2017 11:28AM
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a youth summit on opioid abuse at SNHU Arena in Manchester Tuesday morning. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a surprise visit and speech today at the New Hampshire Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness, said the educational campaign will help create meaningful change nationwide.

“Only a prevention movement can turn the tide,” Sessions said at the SNHU Arena. “I believe what you’re doing today is the start of a national movement.”

The summit, which targets a middle and high school audience, was organized by the Recovery Centers of America and the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Sessions said the New Hampshire event may be the largest such gathering of its kind in the country’s history. He spoke of the importance of prevention, law enforcement, recovery and treatment.

The epidemic is leaving its mark on towns and cities across New Hampshire, he said. The nation’s top law enforcement officer’s comments mirror those of President Donald Trump, who regularly raised the opioid, heroin and fentanyl problem while campaigning in New Hampshire in 2016.

“You’ll find families whose lives have been changed forever because of drug and opioid abuse,” Sessions said.

The attorney general noted that the President has called for the Department of Justice to dismantle drug organizations and gangs. “We’re going after them, that you can be sure,” he said.

Sessions, a former U.S. senator from Alabama, said he cleared his schedule to make the surprise appearance, at the invitation of Jon DeLena, a special agent in charge of the DEA.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and Gov. Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, also addressed the summit.

Gatsas emphasized the importance of awareness and conversation about the dangers of drug addiction. “You are the kings and queens of social media,” he said. “I know with your ability you will move this forward.”

Sununu said that a new drug prevention program would be rolled out in the next couple of weeks, as a step in the coordinated, comprehensive state strategy to combat opioid and heroin abuse.

“We’ve made a lot of headway, but this is really the turning point,” Sununu said. “I don’t know if you guys realize, but this is the beginning of a national effort.”

Former Miami Marlins pitcher Jeff Allison, a New England native, and Wahlberg's brother, Jim, are among the speakers at the half-day summit at SNHU. Students also saw a screening of "If Only," a film by Jim Wahlberg on the dangers of opioid and drug addiction.


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