State AG seeks to oveturn ruling to dismiss evidence in major Laconia drug arrest


LACONIA — The state Attorney General's Office has asked a Belknap County Superior Court judge to reconsider his decision to disallow the drug evidence seized in an April 2015 traffic stop to be presented in court.

Attorney Jason Carey said Judge Peter Fauver "misapplied" the law when he ruled last month that police did not have possession of the car being driven by Peter Dauphin, 43, of 19 Appleton St. when they conducted an inventory search after he was stopped for speeding and they realized the plates on the car showed a different driver.

As a result of that search, police found a small amount of methamphetamine. During the investigation, police obtained a search warrant for his home and found 6.8 ounces of methamphetamine and $11,000.

Without the evidence, the criminal case against Dauphin for possession of narcotics with intent to sell them would likely not proceed.

Fauver determined that because the towing of the car Dauphin was driving was paid for by Dauphin and was to his nearby home, the police never had official custody of it and that the inventory search was unreasonable.

Carey argues that judge's ruling depended too heavily on the destination of the car after police seized the plates and ordered it towed. He said there are multiple cases in the law, including a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals Second District, that decided a noninvestigatory search by police is allowed if the search is conducted according to a neutral police towing policy and if the car was ordered towed by the police.

"The interests protected by an inventory search are what give rise to the officer's obligation to search an impounded vehicle, regardless of its ultimate destination when towed,'" wrote Carey, citing a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision he says is consistent with the federal ruling.

Carey also said the amount of control over the car by police was the same as if the car was being towed to a third party lot or private tow yard. In either case, he said police would not have anything more to do with the vehicle.
Inventory searches are conducted by police to protect the owner from the theft of his or her property, to protect the tow truck driver and impound lot employees from any dangerous items that may be found in a car, and to protect the police from being accused of stealing or damaging any property. The Laconia Police Department tow policy is standard as compared any other police departments, including the New Hampshire State Police, and is not being questioned. How it was applied in this case is at issue.

Carey said it is immaterial whether or not Dauphin arranged and paid for the tow because the law requires that the owner of a car pay for the tow regardless of the circumstances.

He said the court's determination that the search was "unreasonable" because it didn't serve any investigative purpose was misplaced. Carey said courts have repeatedly decided that "where the decision to inventory the contents is lawful, it follows that inventory search itself is per se lawful if conducted pursuant to 'reasonable police regulations.'"

He said that simply because Dauphin was not in custody before the inventory search is also irrelevant. Dauphin was going to be cited by police for speeding and misuse of plates until he was arrested after police found the methamphetamine in the car.

Dauphin is represented by attorney Mark Sisti, who, as of Tuesday, had not filed his response.

Stewart's Ambulance Service sold, but poised for growth


MEREDITH — Stewart's Ambulance Services, which provides emergency medical services to Meredith and neighboring towns, has been sold to Transformative Healthcare and its parent company Kamylon Holdings, a managerial holding company headquartered in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

The transfer of ownership required and this week received the consent of the Board of Selectmen.

Justin Van Etten, who has owned the company for the past nine years, assured the selectmen that only the ownership of the company will change. The employees, including Van Etten himself, will all remain with the company.
"We'll still have maroon ambulances and still be at 20 Foundry Avenue," he said.

Van Etten, who will become become chairman and chief executive officer of Transformative Healthcare, said that his contract grants him authority for at least the next five years to veto any operational changes at Stewart's Ambulance Services that would compromise public safety.

Explaining his decision to sell the company, Van Etten said that Medicare payments represent the largest share of its revenues and noted that "the rules and regulations grow more ridiculous and convoluted" and "the penalties for making a mistake become more severe." He said that the cost of compliance weighs particularly heavily on small firms like Stewart's.

Van Etten said that he chose to Kamylon Holdings in part because the company has roots in the Lakes Region, where one of the founding partners has a season home in Wolfeboro and one of the directors summers in Meredith, the year-round home of his parents.

At the same time, Van Etten said that Kamylon Holdings acquires small locally owned firms, often owned and operated by entrepreneurs with annual sales of $8 million to $80 million, then works closely with them to achieve long-term success. A year ago, Kamylon Holdings acquired LifeLine Ambulance Service, which serves metropolitan areas in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Van Etten said that Stewart's Ambulance Service will serve as a similar platform as the company extends its reach into more rural areas of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

Van Etten suspected Kamylon Holdings picked Stewart's Ambulance Service becaue it is one of the oldest 911 emergency medical service providers in New England with what he believes is "the best reputation New Hampshire."

County joins health care network

LACONIA — The Belknap County Commission agreed Wednesday to become an affiliate member of the Community Health Services Network LLC, the umbrella organization formed to transform the system for providing mental health and substance abuse services by integrating behavioral and physical health care.
Commissioners David DeVoy of Sanbornton and Hunter Taylor of Barnstead voted in favor of membership while Commissioner Richard Burchell of Gilmanton dissented.
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.
Lisa Morris of the Lakes Region Partnership of Public Health that a major component of the program will be to improve the transition from institutional to community settings in order to reduce the number, frequency and cost of people requiring institutionalization. With respect to the county, the initiative bears directly on the Department of Corrections, where a significant share of inmates housed in the county jail suffer from mental illness or substance abuse and often both.
Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center in Gilford told the commissioners that for inmates leaving the jail and returning to the community, access to appropriate services is especially important to lessen the likelihood they will relapse and be returned to jail. She explained that ensuring an effective transition to an effective network of treatment and recovery services will contribute to reducing recidivism rates arising from mental health and substance use disorders.
Morris emphasized that the county would incur no financial obligation by participating in the Community Health Services Network. When Burchell suggested that the initiative represented "downshifting" of responsibilities from the federal and state governments to counties and municipalities, which would be lumbered with the costs when the initial funding is exhausted.
Taylor, who has advocated for expanding capacity for treatment and recovery acknowledged that "there is a risk the programs cannot be sustained," but said simply "we cannot afford not to take the risk." He called the initiative "long overdue" and "an admirable effort."
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.