LONDONDERRY — Londonderry police officials, Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan and other recovery specialists hosted a panel discussion and public forum Thursday night to share information about the resources available to residents who are struggling with substance use disorder and their family members.
The panel included officials from the Farnum Center, Granite Pathways and New Hampshire Healthy Families, as well as Londonderry Police Capt. Patrick Cheetham, licensed clinical social worker Jim Gamache, who is part of Londonderry’s critical intervention management team, and Rachel Behrens, the mother of Nick Behrens, who died of an overdose on July 30, 2017 at the age of 19.
Rachel Behrens said her son changed when he started experimenting with less dangerous drugs like marijuana and started hanging out with a different crowd.
“He had a really strong work ethic, got a job at McDonald’s as soon as he could, later worked at USA Subs, he bought his first car with his own money and was very motivated, and I miss him terribly,” she said.
At one point, after experimenting with Xanax, she said, Nick had had enough. It was early 2017, and he told his parents he wanted to go to Safe Station. He had a 30-day stay in Farnum’s inpatient treatment program.
“He was back to my son again, it was fantastic,” Rachel Behrens said.
But when two Londonderry police officers knocked on her door at 5:30 a.m. on the day he died, she didn’t think his death was drug related. But he had inhaled fentanyl and overdosed.
“I don’t know if my actions could have changed anything,” she said to attendees. “But if you’re here and you’ve got a loved one and they’re struggling, you’re in a blessed spot. You’re loved one is alive; they get a second chance.”
Panelists discussed the new hub-and-spoke system and how Granite Pathways is working as the hub or “doorway” for the Londonderry community in Manchester, in tandem with Safe Stations, which is open overnight.
Goonan said the hub-and-spoke system is still very new and they’re still working on building upon it.
“We’re still trying to figure out what the hub and spoke is for us,” Goonan said.
Londonderry Police Lt. Mark Morrison said his department has found it effective to add tools to their toolbelt over the years, because the old way of dealing with drugs wasn’t working.
“When your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail,” Morrison said.
A few years ago, Londonderry police started a drug abuse response team called the Substance Use Intervention Team (SUIT), which would follow up with individuals who had recovered from an overdose or that police knew were suffering with addiction, to reach out and offer to connect them to resources.
Currently, the SUIT team consists of Morrison, Chaplain Gerry Goncalo and officer Tara Koski.
Gamache said people with addictions are usually people with co-occurring mental illnesses which lead them to drug use. He said about 70 percent of the substance use disorder patients he’s assessed meet or exceed the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Kim Haney, the director Granite Pathways, said one of the most common precursors to drug addiction is a childhood trauma. Gamache added that there are also some biological risk factors that make certain people more susceptible to addiction.
About 20 to 30 members of the public attended the meeting, which was held in the Londonderry High School cafeteria.
People looking for immediate help with substance use disorder can present themselves at a Manchester Fire station, or at the Granite Pathways Doorway in Manchester. They can also call for services by dialing 211.