Access to health care is priority for new county committee

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners on Wednesday named Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) and Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett as its committee members on the state's Delivery System Reform Incentive Program.
The initiative is in response to the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, which by expanding eligibility for Medicaid and providing 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 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 an unbroken continuum of care 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 Winnipesaukee public health networks, consisting of Belknap County, 18 towns in Grafton County and three towns in Merrimack County. Altogether, some 16,000 people in the network are enrolled in Medicaid, 12,000 of them in the Winnipesaukee network.
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.
Last month commissioners agreed to become an affiliate member of the Community Health Services Network LLC, the umbrella IDN organization formed for the Central and Winnipesaukee region.
The Winnipesaukee Health Council has identified access to behavioral health care, including substance abuse treatment, as a high 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.

Gunstock seeking $950,000 to cover costs

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The Belkap County Delegation will hold a public hearing Monday, May 9, at 7 p.m., at the Belknap County Complex on a request from the Gunstock Area Commission for a $950,000 revenue anticipation note.
The note requested s $200,000 more than the amount requested in recent years and comes in the wake of a poor ski season for Gunstock, Mountain Resort, which Gregg Goddard, general manager, said experienced its lowest attendance since modern snowmaking began in the 1980s.
The revenue anticipation note provides a short-term cash flow for Gunstock and is to be repaid by April 1 of next year from profits made during the ski season.
Gunstock still receives more than 60 percent of its total revenue from skiing operations in a 100-day period from mid-December to late March, despite the addition of new summer attractions such as its longest-in-North-America zip line and treetop adventure park.
Work is progressing at the resort on its newest attraction, a mountain coaster which will carry riders in carts running on rails up to 30 feet above the ground, relying solely on gravity for speed, traveling 2,660 feet downhill, around two circles and through sharp curves at speeds up to 25 mph.
Originally projected to open in the middle of July, Goddard said that, with the short winter and early spring, he hopes it will be up and running by the Fourth of July.

Rod and reel – fishing continues to gain in popularity

Salmon fisherman troll around Smith Point on Lake Winnipesaukee at sunset. (Daryl Carlson photos for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Salmon fisherman troll around Smith Point on Lake Winnipesaukee at sunset.
(Daryl Carlson photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Mike Normandin grew up in Laconia, near the Winnipesaukee River, where he learned to fish a little more than 60 years ago.

"We spent a lot of time out there, fishing for anything that swims. We did a lot of fishing as kids," he said.

Decades later, like countless other grandparents, Normandin taught his grandchildren how to hold a pole, wait for a bite, and reel in their catch. Normandin recently served as president of the Belknap County Sportsmen's Association, which promotes the sport of fishing through events such as its Kids' Spring Fishing Derby, which will be held this year on June 5 at Gunstock Recreation Area.

The collective efforts of parents and grandparents, like Normandin, have resulted in steadily increasing interest in fishing, as measured by fishing license sales.

"Generally, the license sales go up each year," said Susan Perry, licensing supervisor for the state's Fish and Game Department.

Her statistics tell the story. In 2005, there were 92,118 resident and 44,672 non-resident fishing licenses sold. Resident licenses increased to 100,941 in 2010, and 111,871 in 2014. Non-resident licenses followed a similar curve, rising to 45,502 in 2010, and 48,661 in 2014.

There would have been reason to suspect that 2016 would be the year that the trend would break. The fee for fishing licenses increased this year, from $35 to $45 for residents, while non-residents will pay $63 for a year of fishing in New Hampshire's freshwater. That fee increase had the misfortune to debut in the same year that an unseasonably mild winter made for the worst ice fishing season in recent memory.

Through March, Perry said, sales were down this year, compared to the first three months of 2015. But after a few warm and sunny weekends in April, this year is on pace to continue the long-term trend. Through April, there have been 48,266 resident licenses and 10,277 non-resident licenses sold this year, each of those figures are substantially higher than the same period in 2015.

Fish and Game offers three ways to buy a license: purchasing online through www.wildlife.state.nh.us, visiting that site to print and mail in a form, or by visiting a local license agent. The Fish and Game website has a list of agents, listed alphabetically by town.

It's no accident that interest in recreational fishing is strong in New Hampshire – the state has been cultivating the sport for more than a century. Scott Decker, the fisheries program manager for Fish and Game, said the state's fish stocking program dates back to 1874, when a hatchery was constructed at Livermore Falls in Holderness to attempt to restore Atlantic salmon to waterways disrupted by dams. The first trout hatchery was built in the late 1880s.

It might come as a surprise to many modern anglers to learn that most of the sport fish found today in New Hampshire's lakes and ponds are not native, and wouldn't exist here if not for stocking program. The largemouth and smallmouth bass were brought in from stock found in the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi River system, said Decker, while the rainbow trout were shipped from the scenic McCloud River in northern California.

Of the fish prized by fishermen, only brook trout and lake trout are native to New Hampshire, said Decker.

"If there was no stocking, the only [fish] you'd have would be pickerel, perch and pouts," said Decker, adding, "Probably some sunfish around, lake trout and brook trout, American eels, lake whitefish and round whitefish."

In the stocking program's early decades, Decker said enthusiasm for sport fishing greatly exceeded the scientific foresight for how the activity might affect the ecosystem. Competition from introduced species resulted in the extinction of the Sunapee trout, a species found in the lake by the same name, and the native whitefish population, while still existent, would likely be more robust.

"People just didn't have the knowledge that that was a bad thing," Decker said. "People didn't know about preserving genetics, they just wanted more fish to fish."

While there were once 11 fish hatcheries around the state, Fish and Game now operates six. The hatcheries raise about 400,000 pounds of fish each year, which are distributed to waterbodies throughout the state. Even remote ponds are stocked using aircraft. Decker said the brook trout is by far the most prevalently stocked fish.

"They're the most easily raised and easily caught, and they're the state fish," he said.

For 25 year-old Ethan Cote, one of Normandin's grandsons, fishing has turned into a favorite pastime.

"I grew up doing it, I enjoy being outside and on the water, I find it a more relaxing way to spend my time than inside watching TV," he said. Cote said the growing popularity of fishing is likely due to its ease of entry – a person can buy a cheap fishing rod, a few worms and license in the morning and have a good chance of catching a fish by the end of the day. Cote turned many of his college friends into fishermen, too, who liked the idea of going out for a boat ride. Along the way, they experience the calm of floating on a natural pond, underlaid by the constant possibility of a big fish striking the bait.

"It's a pretty enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, on a boat with a couple of buddies, casting a couple of lines," said Cote.

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