MERRIMACK — One year after a special investigation unit was formed to combat a growing drug crisis in Merrimack, the police chief says the problem is now manageable, but far from over.

“Meth is an increasing problem. It is not just heroin anymore — it is meth, it is everything,” said Chief Denise Roy of the Merrimack Police Department. “ … Unfortunately, this year already we have had 10 drug arrests. The arrests also coincide with three of our town residents — these aren’t people who are visiting, these are three of our town residents who died in an overdose in one weekend.”

Word is out on the street about the new drug unit, however, and 17 cooperating individuals have been secured to help with local drug cases since the unit’s inception last January. These individuals are willing to provide critical information about drug activity in exchange for consideration on the crimes they are facing, explained the chief.

“I know it was difficult to hear about because nobody wants to think Merrimack has a drug problem or has a problem with any facilities in town, but it was becoming an extreme issue for us,” Roy told the town council recently.

She thanked the council for providing funding to hire two special officers to work on the drug unit as their primary focus, stressing the need to keep the investigation unit in operation.

“This is everyday life. People do not know what is going on — nobody has any idea,” said Roy. “Everybody has some issue that they are facing and it is here in town and it is not going away.”

The drug problem may not be able to be fixed, but it is currently manageable, said the chief, adding that could change without notice.

Sgt. Sean Cassell is one of the officers assigned to the unit, and Roy said he is dedicated to combating the drug crisis in a compassionate way while also keeping drug activity at bay.

While police are focusing their efforts on the town’s extended stay hotels, Roy said efforts are underway throughout other sections of Merrimack as well.

“It is important that we keep this going,” she stressed.

Roy shared a story about meeting a woman who was recently arrested at a local hotel in connection with drugs. The woman told Roy, “I just can’t get out of it,” adding her children were also addicted to drugs.

In a separate incident, Roy said a local couple was arrested previously and found guilty of dealing heroin in front of their children; both of the parents were sentenced to two to four years in prison.

Deputy Chief Brian Levesque said some of the dealers do not live in Merrimack, but are selling their products in town. Other agencies such as the Hillsborough County opioid task force, state police and federal officials step in to assist Merrimack with those cases or larger drug busts, he explained.

“I am a firm believer we have to tell people what is going on,” said Roy.

In 2018 there were 28 drug overdoses in Merrimack and seven deaths associated with drug use. So far this year there have been three fatal overdoses in town.

“One is too many,” she added.