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Attorney General Jeff Sessions to speak on opioid crisis in Concord Thursday

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 10. 2018 8:01PM
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will speak on the opioid crisis in Concord on Thursday. (FILE PHOTO/REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

CONCORD — Two New Hampshire law enforcement officials said they’re hoping to hear U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledge some federal dollars for the Granite State on Thursday when he visits to discuss the opioid crisis.

Sessions’ office said he will deliver remarks on the opioid crisis at 2 p.m. inside the U.S. District Court building. The meeting will include members of federal, state and local law enforcement, the Justice Department said.

“Law enforcement, treatment, drug courts, everything comes down to funding,” said Nashua Police Chief Andrew Lavoie, who will attend the meeting. He said the Justice Department contacted him Monday and invited him to the roundtable discussion.

Lavoie noted that treatment programs are struggling.

Serenity Place in Manchester closed late last year because of financial problems. And in Nashua, Harbor Homes had a $400,000 shortfall and, more recently, has come under problems after a state audit.

He said his department has assigned a couple of detectives to a couple of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task forces. They’re great because they can trace drug traffickers across state lines, but they come at a cost.

“It hurts my manpower, but we have to do it,” he said.

At New Hampshire State Police, Major John Encarnacao said funding is needed; not just for law enforcement, but for treatment and prevention. And he said Sessions should talk to people who experience the drug crisis firsthand: officers on the street, treatment professionals, ambulance workers, teachers and recovery coaches. Both he and Lavoie stressed the problem will take years to solve.

“We have a generation of addicts out there,” said Encarnacao, who used to head the state police Narcotics Investigation Unit. “We need to put a stop to it, and I’m not talking solely law enforcement. We need to reduce demand.”

In March, Sessions accompanied President Donald Trump to Manchester when the President unveiled the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse, which included the death penalty for drug dealers, a reduction in opioid prescriptions by one-third in a year’s time, and increased treatment and recovery services.

Trump, who the previous year was quoted calling New Hampshire a drug-infested den, said in March that the opioid crisis is as bad in New Hampshire as it is anywhere.

“We’re pouring a lot of money and a lot of talent into this horrible problem,” he said at the time.

“We hope that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ visit to New Hampshire signals the end of the Trump administration’s disastrous all-talk no-action approach to the opioid epidemic,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley in an email.

He said the state’s all-Democratic delegation secured a significant increase in federal funding for the state’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis.

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