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Attorney says Nashua drug court thriving, but more assistance needed

Union Leader Correspondent

April 15. 2018 9:58PM
From left, Attorney Kathleen Broderick, Nellie Chancey and Attorney Ryan Guptill participate in an opioid conference Friday at Rivier University in Nashua. (Kimberly Houghton / Union Leader correspondent)

NASHUA — While the Nashua Drug Court at Hillsborough County Superior Court is thriving, organizers say there are still some major needs to help participants succeed.

“We need more access to treatment. We need more probation officers,” said Attorney Ryan Guptill, a New Hampshire public defender.

Speaking Friday at Rivier University during its Behavioral Health Professions and Workforce Development conference focusing on opioid prevention, treatment and recovery, Guptill said New Hampshire drug court participants need more detox beds, transitional living and medication assistance.

“I think all around we need more access,” he said, adding faster treatment is necessary and insurance hurdles must be overcome quickly.

As New Hampshire grapples with the ongoing drug epidemic, officials are attempting to treat rather than incarcerate repeat criminal offenders battling with substance abuse using the statewide drug court initiative.

There will be a drug court in every county in the state, according to Guptill, who said the program, which has been in operation for the past four years in the Gate City, is now shifting its focus on continued after-care to ensure that graduates continue to prosper.

“Some of our participants will need support across their lifetime,” he said. The new after-care phase will extend six months to a year for participants, but graduates will be given the skills they need to help access care for years to come, said Guptill.

When addicts are incarcerated, he said there is about an 80 percent chance that they are arrested again within five years of being released. However, drug court graduates have reduced that number to about 40 or 50 percent, he explained.

“This is not the silver bullet. Some people will succeed, some will not,” said Attorney Kathleen Broderick, assistant county attorney. “But the incentive to reduce recidivism is great.”

The drug court provides repeat offenders with substance abuse therapy, cognitive therapy, education assistance and housing assistance — all with intense supervision and frequent drug testing, said Broderick.

Many participants have had more than 10 years of heavy drug use, and many have anger management issues, lack problem solving skills and have chronic criminal thoughts, according to Nellie Chancey, a probation officer with the New Hampshire Department of Corrections.

Participants need more than 350 hours of treatment, said Chancey, explaining that amount of treatment is not often available in a traditional incarceration setting.

“This is the level of treatment. This is the level of supervision that is needed to succeed,” she said.

Drug court provides incentives and sanctions, and holds each participant accountable with weekly court meetings, said Broderick. The goal, which has proven successful, is to correct criminal thinking, reduce substance abuse and stop the path of crimes to improve safety for the community and the participants, she added.

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