NEWPORT — Grafton and Sullivan county community leaders who have seen the effects of drug abuse firsthand told Congresswoman Annie Kuster Tuesday they need more funding to provide additional resources and programs for addicts.
The group of local law enforcement, school officials, medical providers and other community leaders gathered at the Richards Free Library in Newport to discuss efforts to solve the drug abuse epidemic that is facing the Claremont area and state as a whole.
Opiate and heroin abuse is at the center of the epidemic, said Claremont Police Chief Alex Scott.
“In the mid to late 90s we had our first spike,” Scott said. “But it has reemerged.”
Just last week a New Jersey man was arrested in Lebanon after he was found with $30,000 worth of heroin, Scott said.
Many addicts become addicted to the drug after just one use, he said. “One of the biggest challenges of opiate addiction is it is so addictive.”
Liz Hennig, coordinator for Communities United Regional Network of Sullivan County, told Kuster there needs to be more drug abuse education in the schools.
“They have to go beyond reading and writing to have a successful community,” Kuster said.
Ed Rajsteter, executive director of Headrest, said he knows from his experience with the Grafton County Drug Court that in New Hampshire drug courts are county funded and when the funding runs out program participants drop out, which means they have to enter jail, he said. Other states fund at the state level, he said.
“When people drop out it’s because the mental health resources aren’t there,” Rajsteter said. “There’s more mental health services needed than are available.”
Sandy Gassett, a parent educator with Good Beginnings of Sullivan County, said she works with young mothers who are trying to overcome addiction and often find an underlying mental health or abuse trauma issue is behind their addiction. She said even when there is funding for programs there is a gap between a request for help and that treatment. One mother of a newborn she worked with had to wait three months before receive mental health care.
Claremont City Councilor Charlene Lovett said it is hard to attract businesses to the region if the potential workforce can’t pass a drug test. She added that from her recent experience on the Claremont School Board, drug abuse in homes is affecting family life and causing behavioral problems in schools that lead the Claremont School District to hire behavioral specialists to deal with children suffering from the effects of living in a home with untreated addiction and/or mental health issues.Kuster said her office would work to identify funding for these programs and said she has prioritized efforts to address the crisis on the federal level. “It’s not all about funding, but sometimes it’s hard to get things done without funding,” Kuster said. “We don’t have a ton of solutions, but you’re doing good work. … Consider this the beginning of the conversation.”