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Situated between two major cities, Merrimack copes with drug overdoses

Union Leader Correspondent

October 27. 2016 8:00PM
Officer Christopher Dowling speaks Wednesday to the Greater Manchester/Nashua Board of Realtors about the drug epidemic in Merrimack and throughout the state. (Kimberly Houghton)

MERRIMACK — As communities throughout the Granite State continue to struggle with an unprecedented number of drug overdoses, Merrimack is no exception.

Situated between two of the state’s largest cities — Manchester and Nashua — the problem is difficult to escape, said officer Christopher Dowling of the Merrimack Police Department.

“As a police officer, I see the end result of addiction,” Dowling told members of the Greater Manchester and Nashua Board of Realtors, who gathered at the Merrimack Public Library this week to receive an update on the war against heroin.

In 2015, there were 439 drug deaths reported in New Hampshire, which included 397 deaths associated with heroin and opioids, according to Dowling.

Last year in Merrimack, authorities received 25 calls for drug overdoses, which ultimately resulted in four fatalities, said Dowling. So far in 2016, the department has responded to 21 calls for drug overdoses, three of which resulted in deaths, he said.

“These are not pretty scenes,” he told the group, explaining it is not only tough on friends and family members of the victims, but also the emergency crews responding to assist.

Dowling said the data collected on fatal drug overdoses is likely not accurate, explaining many overdoses may not be reported.

As Narcan becomes more available and more households have the reversal drug on hand, it is becoming increasingly more challenging to know how severe the heroin and opioid problem actually is, according to Dowling, who said some families are taking matters into their own hands.

“All they care about is their next high … there is such a high risk for dependency,” he said, explaining the cycle of dependency is tearing apart not only individuals, but families as well.

Kriss Blevens, CEO of Kriss Cosmetics and now an advocate for substance abuse issues, knows first-hand how addiction can destroy a family.

Blevens lost her step-daughter two years ago following a lengthy battle with heroin, and now Blevens is sharing their family’s story in an effort to teach others about the addiction crisis.

“It is huge — beyond measure,” she said of the opioid problems facing New Hampshire.

Once she accepted the grief, Blevens placed her efforts into creating Amber’s Place, an emergency recovery shelter named after her stepdaughter that serves people struggling with addiction.

Blevens said the state is desperate for more recovery houses where addicts can go following their time in jail or hospital stays.

She urged those in attendance to keep the conversation alive, and to continue the grassroots mission of saving drug addicts one individual at a time.

There are currently gaps in the continuum of care that need to be addressed, and treatment must be easily accessible at all levels of the addiction recovery process, she maintained.

Blevens said her step-daughter once told her that there is no recovery in jail.

“This is the reality of the issue, and we need to awaken to it,” said Blevens, adding the community must band together to develop a climate of understanding in order to break the stigma of addiction.

General News Health Heroin Merrimack

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