New county drug task force to target dealers


LACONIA — Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin and the Belknap County Police Chiefs Association have announced the formation of a Belknap County Drug Task Force which will target drug dealers who are operating in the county.
"Our goal is enforcement. We have to arrest these people who are selling this stuff which is killing our people," Wiggin said as he spoke at the Alton Town Hall Thursday morning following a meeting of the police chiefs organization at which the cooperative effort was discussed.
Wiggin said that low-level drug dealers who are "sneaking through the cracks" and bringing fentanyl-laced opioids into the county from places like New York City and Lawrence, Massachusetts, will be the main targets of the effort, which he said is focused on drug dealers and not those using drugs.
He said the countywide effort will be coordinated out of his department and will involve the sharing of information and joint investigations which will see local police officers deputized as part of the task force, which he said is similar to drug task forces already in operation in Stafford and Grafton counties.
"We already have these connections between departments and want to want to share information and work together on investigations. This increases our capabilities," said Wiggin,, who said the task force will also work closely with State Police and federal agencies to cut down the flow of drugs into the area.
He said that the drug overdoses claimed over 400 lives in New Hampshire last year and that thee were about 30 in Belknap County, as well as many near fatal incidents.
"It's a serious problem we have to deal with. We know we can't arrest our way out of the problem and that there have to be treatment and education programs for drug users," said Wiggin. But he said that drug users who are also selling drugs will be among the targets.
His department will soon have a new vehicle which will remain unmarked and will be used in undercover operations.
County Commissioners agreed Tuesday morning to his request to accept the vehicle, which was seized by Stafford County in a civil forfeiture action and made available to other law enforcement agencies.
Wiggin said that the unmarked vehicle will be used undercover operations as part of an expanded role by the department in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies in drug investigations.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 488

Center Harbor prepared to welcome crowds for 2nd annual Skatefest


CENTER HARBOR — Sandy Frost, director of the Parks and Recreation, said she and other organizers weren't sure what to expect when they held their first Skatefest last year, and were thrilled when nearly 300 people showed up for an afternoon of skating and family fun. The town's municipal departments and businesses came together to create the event, and it was a good thing there were so many people on hand to help.

"It worked out great – with the help of many hands, it works out great," Frost said.

The second annual Skatefest will be held on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 1 to 7 p.m. There's no fee to join, just bring your skates. Skating will be possible on both the town's rink, in the parking lot overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, and on the surface of the lake itself, which is in excellent skating condition as a result of the un-winter-like weather of the beginning of the week.

"The ice on the lake looks great – after the rain we just had, it looks beautiful," she said.

The event was conceived by the Center Harbor Community Development Association, a group of local businesses. Members of the association are helping to provide everything that's needed to put on the event. There will be food samplings, including soups, chili, hot cocoa and cookies, in the lakeside pavilion from 1 to 4 p.m., and from 4 to 7 p.m. hot dogs and hamburgers will be served under a tent on the town beach.

Three different skating clubs have been invited to perform demonstrations of their skills, which will begin at 2 p.m. A bonfire will be lit to add some warmth.

Frost hopes the second annual Skatefest will draw another big crowd, including Center Harbor residents, people who live in neighboring towns and visitors here for a just a short time.

"It's all about people getting together and having fun family time together," she said.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 359

Forrester sponsors bill to overhaul mental health care for children and youth


CONCORD — The Senate Health and Human Services Committee has unanimously endorsed legislation sponsored by Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) that would require the state to develop a comprehensive system for addressing the mental and behavioral health of children and youth.

Forrester said yesterday that the interests of children and youth were not served when the state settled a class action suit arising from the shortcomings of mental health services for adults in 2014. At the same time, she said that the 10-year plan of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services failed to adequately address the mental and behavioral health of the young.

Forrester said that she drew on the work of the New Hampshire Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative, a coalition of more than 60 organizations and individuals, which in 2013 issued a plan — "Transforming Children's Behavioral Health Care. She described the current system as "fractured," with a variety of providers, including primary care physicians, community mental health centers, public school districts, state agencies and the juvenile justice system, often providing the same services or working at cross purposes.

"We should providing children with the right care, at the right time, in the right place," Forrester said. "Too often they are winding up in a place they don't belong."

A significant share of the costs of serving children and youth are borne by the public sector. Noting that she meets regularly with school superintendents throughout her district, Forrester said they regularly express concern at the cost of serving students with special needs."

Senate Bill 534 directs the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education to collaborate in developing a "system of care," meaning "an integrated and comprehensive delivery structure for the provision of publicly funded behavioral health services to children and youth."

The bill stipulates that the system of care have a "flexible benefits package" that includes clinically necessary and appropriate home and community-based treatment and support services in the least restrictive setting. The system should direct services according to the needs and preferences of children and their families with emphasis on early prevention and treatment. Borrowing a phrase from the report of the New Hampshire Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative, bill specifies "services that are family driven, youth-guided, community-based and culturally and linguistically competent."

Both departments would be required to identify and project cost savings achieved by providing care more efficiently and reducing redundant and duplicate services.

According to the New Hampshire Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative 10,000 children are being served by the 10 community health centers in the state. A fifth of preschool-age children and teenagers have an "emotional disorder" that affects their life at home, at school and in the community. More than 40 percent of children receiving mental health services are diagnosed with a co-occurring substance abuse disorder while two-thirds of young men and four-fifths of young women undergoing treatment for alcohol or drug abuse have a co-occurring mental health disorder. And every day 250 children are living in a residential setting or treatment facility outside their community.

Forrester said that commissioners Jeff Myers of Health and Human Services and Virginia Barry of Education, together with officials from other state agencies, expressed strong support for the bill, adding that it is also supported by senators on both sides of the aisle.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 678