Drug abuse coalition in Belmont and Canterbury takes off


BELMONT — Community members of all ages packed the high school cafeteria Thursday night for an open and frank discussion about drugs, addiction and recovery.

It was the first meeting of the Belmont/Canterbury drug awareness coalition It Takes A Community. Modeled after similar area programs like Stand Up Laconia, the coalition seeks to bring together communities that are riven by drugs and the fallout felt by everyone whose lives they touch.

After watching a movie about the facelessness of addiction and recovery, "The Anonymous People" attendees ate some pizza and stayed for the panel discussion that followed.

With a panel of experts on hand, one of whom is in recovery, to answer questions, questions ranged from how many addicts sell drugs just to maintain their habit to the latest drugs, including Suboxone, to how long it takes to get into a recovery facility.

"Most of the addicts I deal with are dealers and stealers," said Dr. Paul Racicot who heads the emergency room at the Lakes Region General Hospital.

It Takes a Community coalition is a spinoff from the Belmont PTO that began its student-based program It Takes a Village three years ago. While the PTO has been doing drug awareness programs since it began It Takes a Village, the coalition incorporates elements from the PTO plus community members like Kelley Gaspa, who is the substance abuse coordinator for the Winnipesaukee Region at the Partnership for Public Health and Police Chief Mark Lewandoski.

One of the leaders of It Takes A Community is Darcy Ess, whose son Cameron died of a drug overdose in 2014, and she told the hushed crowd about his use of cigarettes and then marijuana in middle school, how he added alcohol to his choice drugs in high school and that it was when he had his wisdom teeth removed and was prescribed Percoset that caused the trigger in his brain to go toward opioids.

Ess has two sons, but said Cameron was the one whose brain reacted the way it did, leading him and her family into the dark hole of drug addiction. After a three-month stay in a drug facility, she said, he returned to Belmont but didn't get the support system he needed so he moved to another part of the state with her parents.

After graduation, she said, he did well for a while but she recalled him getting defensive about where he was going and what he was doing around the beginning of 2014. Three months later he was dead.

One of Cameron's friends, Josh Ross, told the audience that he is a recovering addict and has been sober since 2011. After telling the crowd that he was going to try not to get emotional, he recounted his story with drugs and recovery.

"I've done some really messed up things in my life but that's not what defines me," he said.
When asked what got him started, he said that his parents said he shouldn't and his friends at school said he wouldn't. He started with marijuana and alcohol and now realizes that something in his brain is triggered when he drinks.

He also said he was proud to be in the same room as K-9 Officer Evan Boulanger, who is a drug recognition expert with the department.

"He's probably arrested me six times," Ross said, to which Boulanger smiled and said he'd be proud to shake his hand.

Later in the meeting, Ross said that he remembered when Cameron got the Percoset because the two shared them. He said he remembered being at Cameron's funeral and having Ess look at him and ask "What are you doing?"

"Today, I can look Darcy in the eye," said Ross.

Also included in the panel was a Gilford man named Nate who is participating in Recovery Court, a program that began about three years ago by multiple Belknap County private and public entities, including Horizons Counseling Center, 4th Circuit Court Judge Jim Carroll, and other county and local agencies who have created an intense program with support for recovering drug addicts.

"I have a disease of more," said Nate, who said his pattern of addiction was very similar to that described by Ross and Ess. "I racked up four felonies in one month."

Noting that Recovery Court "saved his life," he said that now he is focused on where he is going, not where's he's been, and that he has reconnected with his family and real friends who really love him.

He said it was nice to "sit here with Officer Boulanger and not have him follow me into the parking lot."

At one point, the conversation turned to Suboxone, a controversial, but for some a viable method of staying off drugs until recovery and/or rehabilitation is available.

Racicot said that the general thinking around Suboxone is changing, and five years ago he was against "drug replacement therapy."

Corey Gately, a substance abuse counselor at LRGHealthcare said many physicians and counselors took a long time to accept narcotic replacement therapy but said now she had changed her mind.

Likening Suboxone with insulin, she said when someone learns they are diabetic, he or she given a new routine to follow and medicine to help.

"Suboxone give people a chance to get their lives together," Gately said, adding that a person can't just walk in a "get a script" but must work with behavioral health experts on their life habits as does a diabetic.

"It's more than just avoiding detox," said Horizon's Director Jacqui Abikoff. "Even after detox, (addicts') brains aren't capable of feeling joy."

BES students celebrate Earth Day with a Tiger Trot

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Belmont Elementary School students Morgan Breingan,  Ava Hall and Zack Capra plant a rhododendron tree, donated by Appletree Nursery of Belmont, in observance of  Earth Day.




BELMONT — While nearly all of the elementary school Tigers started out trotting on the woodsy trail behind the school, most of them returned walking. But it doesn't matter how fast or slow, they went because they were all outside celebrating Earth Day Friday.

With 15 minutes in between, each class came from the school and met with teacher Danielle Embree before embarking on their trot through the trails at the school. After a brief ceremony the now fresh-faced children each got a crabapple tree sapling to plant when they get home, courtesy of the Green Club.

"We are just celebrating that we have a nature trail," said Associate Principal Ben Hill, who was at the end of the trail in the baseball field to high five, fist bump or verbally congratulate every student who walked the mile-plus Tiger Trail. A water station was set up and each got a drink after their run and deposited the cup in the recycling bin.

This is the first year of the Tiger Trot, which is a program designed to get students outside, moving around, and enjoying the healthy living program promoted by the entire Shaker School District. On Thursday, the Plymouth State University Tiger Drama team performed "Every Day is Earth Day" and through out the month students have been working on grade-appropriate projects in preparation for the day.

While all of the students participated, the student leaders come from Embree's running club, which she started to better prepare the willing students to participate athletically in more organized sports at the middle and high school levels.

Embree said the school partners with Prescott Farm with its outdoor classroom, and have worked on age-appropriate projects like building bird houses.

Waiting in the shade of the outdoor classroom were trot leaders 10-year-old Ricky, 10-year-old Brianna and 9-year-old "but almost 10" Bree.

"I love running. It's hard but ..." said Brianna as her voice trailed off. She said the most important thing as a leader is to be responsible and listen to the teachers, who were strategically placed along the trail to help anyone whose shoe came untied or suffered any other calamity.

"It's running," said Bree.

Ricky described himself as a "gamer boy" but said he stays in shape by running.

All of them said that the things they have watch for are ticks, big rocks, tree stumps and roots.

The intricate trail system was started by retired Belmont Elementary School teacher Judy Perrier and is named for her. Once named the New Hampshire Science Teacher of the Year, she said the project began in the early 1990s when she realized that there was 50 acres of land at the new Belmont Elementary School, and some of it was geologically unique.

Helped by Sumner Dole, a former Shaker Regional School Board member and forest research educator at UNH, they identified a "glacial erratic" or an extra large boulder of a different type of native rock material left behind by glacial ice. They also identified streams and their beginnings and set out tags to identify educational items they could teach to students.

Perrier said a great deal of the back-breaking work was done by the inmates at the former N.H. State Prison in Laconia calling themselves the Shocking Conservation, while teachers, volunteers and some sixth-graders helped actually create the trails.

Altogether, they built two bridges to span two of the larger streams, and Perrier said she taught her third-grade class how to identify where the streams come from, how water runs into the Tioga River, and eventually into the Merrimack River. She said students made boats and documents the journeys through the use of topographical maps.

Teacher Karen Gingrich organized and marked the significant spots and stops along the trail with metal placards of a tiger's foot.

While Friday's run was as much about healthy living as it was about Earth Day, Embree said that being outside on a lovely spring day was one of the best things the district could do for its students.

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Belmont Elementary School students run on the Perrier Tiger Trail, honoring Earth Day, on Friday. 

Below, Judy Perrier, namesake of the Perrier Tiger Trail at Belmont Elementary School, listens as students are instructed about the nature walk they’re about to embark on.

(Alan MacRae photos/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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A dozen parking spaces may be lost for WOW Trail


LACONIA — With work set to begin on the second phase of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail between the Laconia Public Library and Belmont town line, the WOW Trail committee will ask the City Council to eliminate a dozen parking spaces and a dedicated turn lane on New Salem Street to accommodate the trail when it meets Monday evening.

Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, said yesterday that, save for the parking spaces and turn lane, all the easements, exceptions and permits required for construction of the 5,000 foot walking and biking path are "in place and ready to go." The trail will run alongside the railway for virtually its entire length, swinging around a pair of historic railway sheds and crossing property on Water Street to join the Fair Street Bridge.

However, Beetle said that where New Salem Street parallels the railway line, from just below its intersection with Pleasant Street to Salvation Army Thrift Store, there is not enough space between the roadway and the track to accommodate both the 12 parking spaces the 10-foot-wide trail. There is only 25 feet between the center line of the street and the fencing along the railway, which the New Hampshire Department of Transportation has required to separate the trail from the track, room enough for either the trail or the parking, but not both.

At the same time, the WOW committee will ask the council to eliminate the dedicated right turn lane at the intersection of New Salem Street and North Main Street to facilitate the connection between the first and second phases of the trail. Traffic studies indicate that very few vehicles entering downtown from Pleasant Street or New Salem Street make the turn. Instead, most motorists enter Veterans Square by way of the Pleasant Street intersection and either proceed east to Church Street, follow Pleasant Street south or turn on to Beacon Street West.

"I understand that nobody downtown wants to see any parking spaces eliminated," Beetle said. But, he added that the WOW "is working to make the city vibrant and we hope some day the trail will draw everybody downtown and there is a parking problem. Then, " he continued, "we can find a place to put them."

But, he hastened to say that removing the parking spaces on New Salem Street will have an immediate impact on Pitman's Freight Room. He said that he checked with other businesses and was not aware of any other that would be affected. At the same time, he estimated there are some 250 parking spaces in the vicinity, many of them in privately owned lots that empty after working hours. He suggested that with some goodwill on the part of his neighbors, Dick Mitchell, the owner Pitman's Freight Room, could make parking arrangements to compensate for the loss of the dozen spaces.

Beetle said that with the second phase underway, the WOW Trail committee has begun to look ahead and will be hosting the WOW Sweepstakes Ball on Saturday, May 21. The ball is the organization's major fundraising event and this year will be held for the last time at the Conference Center at Lake Opechee Inn & Spa. He said tickets can be purchased online at wowtrail.org.

 04-22 Wow trail lots

This view of New Salem Street as it approaches its intersection with Pleasant Street shows the designed route of the second phase of the WOW Trail. The distance between the center line and edge of the street is 25 feet. Since the parking spaces account for 10 feet and the trail is 10 feet wide, there is space for one or the other but not both. The WOW Trail is asking the City Council to eliminate the parking spaces. (Courtesy photo/Alan Beetle).