Leavitt, Ball win Alton School Board seats

ALTON — Peter Leavitt (644) and Michael Ball (499) won three-year terms on the Alton School Board, outdistancing Connie Racine (338) and Faye LaCourse (253).
Voters rejected the proposed $15,174,547 operating budget 576-439, which means a default budget of $15,020,238 will take effect.
Voters had added $250,000 to the Alton school district's operating budget at the deliberative session of the school district by a vote of 45-26, which supporters of the move had said at the time was needed to preserve teaching staff levels at the Alton Central School.
The school board subsequently voted 4-0 to oppose the change in the operating budget and the town budget committee voted 3-2 against the change.
The budget reflects $4,637,339 towards the operating budget of Prospect Mountain High School, which is jointly operated by Alton and Barnstead.
Voters approved a one-year contract with the Alton Education Association, which will add $104,521 to the school budget, by a 612-414 vote.
They also supported a warrant article seeking a $479,500 appropriation for roof repairs at Prospect Mountain High School by a 673-333 vote. The sum represents half of the $959,000 roof repair project and will require a similar amount from the Barnstead school district.

– Roger Amsden

Lakes Region readies to tackle mental health and substance abuse issues

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has begun introducing a major initiative to address the needs of those with mental health and substance abuse disorders, which was outlined to providers of physical and behavioral health and various social services at Inter-Lakes High School Tuesday night.

The initiative is in response to the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, which by expanding eligibility for Medicaid and provided benefits for substance abuse has increased demand for services in short supply. Currently, 92 percent of adults who require treatment for alcohol abuse and 84 percent of adults who require treatment for drug abuse go without it. At the same time, two of every three people with mental illness admitted to the New Hampshire Hospital spend more than one day waiting in an emergency room until a bed becomes available.

In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved the state's request to fund a transforming the system for providing mental health and substance abuse services The so-called "transformation waiver" will provide $150 million over five years to apply toward offering integrated physical and behavioral health care, expanding capacity to address emergent behavioral health issues, and ensuring a continuum of care unbroken as patients pass from one provider to another.

The principal agents of the program will be seven "integrated delivery networks," or IDNs, one of which will consist of the Central and Winnipesaukeee public health networks, consisting of Belknap County, 18 towns in Grafton County and three towns in Merrimack County. The IDNs will organize and coordinate the providers within the network as well as receive and distribute funding to them. The partners in the networks must include primary care physicians, substance abuse providers, hospitals, community mental health centers, community and rural health centers, community organizations providing social services and county nursing and correctional facilities.

Lisa Morris of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health said that the Winnipesaukee Health Council has identified access to behavioral health care, including substance abuse treatment, as a priority in the region. In January, the Community Health Services Network, LLC was formed. The network includes LRGHeathcare, Speare Memorial Hospital, Genesis Behavioral Health, Horizons Counseling Center, HealthFirst, Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, Lakes Region Community Services, Central New Hampshire Hospice and Visiting Nurse Association, Franklin Visiting Nurse Association and Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties.

"The Lakes Region is a step ahead," Morris said, explaining that the network represents the structure for the IDN.

The IDNs will pursue projects to expand the capacity for treating mental health and substance abuse, support patients transitioning from institutional to community settings and integrate physical and behavioral care by fostering collaboration between primary care physicians, behavioral health care providers and community social services.

Specific projects to serve these objectives will be chosen from a prescribed menu. For example, to expand capacity projects include supplementing existing personnel with additional staff and training, providing medically assisted therapy for substance abuse and offering treatment as an alternative to incarceration.

This year, $19.5 million, or 65 percent of the funding, will be applied to building capacity. In 2017, funding will begin to be apportioned among the IDNs according to their performance, beginning with 10 percent of all funds and rising to 25 percent before all funding will be based on outcomes in 2019 and 2020.

Gilford parent files wiretapping suit against bus company, superintendent

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — A parent who was charged with three counts of disorderly conduct after protesting the school district choice of mandatory reading material at a School Board in 2014 has filed a federal suit against the First Student Bus Company and Superintendent Kent Hemingway for allegedly violating state and federal wiretapping laws.

The suit says William Baer is the father of two children who attend Gilford High School who he claims were audiotaped while on a school bus owned by First Student which is under contract by the school district to transport students back and forth to school.

Baer said his children have been riding the same bus "#3" since 2013 and regularly engage in conversation during their rides.

He said neither child consented to being audiotaped and were unaware this was happening until one of them was summoned to the principal's office in January for a incident on the bus. During the conversation, he said the principal referred to the audiotape.

When the child referenced the student handbook, he realized it stated that all buses "shall be posted" with a sign indicating the people aboard it are being audiotaped.
The suit said Baer's students examined bus #3 as well as "a number" of other buses provided to the school district by First Student and learned that most of them did not have the required posting. They also said they had never noticed any posting in their bus since they began riding it in 2013.

In his suit, Baer noted that bus #3 has since posted the requisite warning signs.

Hemingway is being cited because of his role as the overseer of the Gilford School District.

William Baer was involved last year in a court case over his right to free speech at a school board meeting. He was arrested for disrupting the meeting, but the 4th Circuit Court decided Baer, while rude, was not breaking any laws.

Baer also later filed a federal suit against the police lieutenant who arrested him but the court determined the lieutenant was immune from suit.

First Student and Hemingway have not responded to the complaint.