At Huot Center forum, Hassan says substance abuse is ‘full-community challenge’

LACONIA — Gov. Maggie Hassan told a group of high school students yesterday that the state has received a grant for a prescription drug monitoring program that was passed into law two years ago but never funded by the Legislature.

Hassan said she is working with other New England governors to create a program that will allow individual states to share the information in a regional effort to stop "doctor shopping."

She also said there is a need for more mental health services, and with the Medicaid expansion, more people, including young people, could have access to mental health services before they turn to drugs to make them feel better.

"This is a full-community challenge, and it will take a full community to address it," Hassan said.

Hassan made her comments as the guest of honor at a round table discussion hosted at the Huot Technical Center yesterday attended by a panel of local anti-drug and mental health advocates from Laconia and Franklin.

Hassan also spoke briefly about spice or synthetic cannibinoids.

In August, she declared a state of emergency after 41 people in Manchester suffered "serious medical reactions," half of them requiring treatment in hospitals, from using spice.

Prior to the discussion, students had prepared a number of questions for the panel, including one student who wanted to know where, other than the public library, older teens could go and "hang out" in a drug-free environment.

Police Chief Chris Adams fielded that one by telling them that there is a new room at the Boys and Girl's Club on North Main Street that has activities for older students like ping-pong, pool and television. He noted that recently the older teens have been one of the target groups for the club.

"We lost the teen population, and we really want to get it back," he said.

Student Sophia Joyal told Hassan about Freedom Found – an ad hoc group of students who are not necessarily members of one of the many cliques at school - who meet regularly for outings, who stand up to bullying, and who help out some of the grass roots programs like Stand Up Laconia.

Hassan replied that Freedom Found was a "great name" for an organization. "Democracy is when people take actions," she said, adding that New Hampshire is a state that cherishes its freedoms.

She told the students and their adviser, guidance councilor Phil Reed, that their model is one that other communities and the state should follow.

"We're always looking for the best practices that don't cost a lot of money," Hassan said.

Also joining Hassan, were two parents who lost their children to drug overdoses. She assured them that the funds for the N.H. Drug Task Force will be included in her budget.

Hassan also had a personal message for the students. She said she hears a lot of casual discussion between young people about drugs, but that the discussion isn't a causal topic.

"(Drug abuse) is a serious public health and public safety issue," she said. "It strains families, hurts productivity, and undermines safety."

Joining Hassan were state Sen. Andrew Hosmer, a representative from the Department of Corrections, Franklin City Manager Elizabeth Dragon, Clare Persson from Stand Up Laconia, and representatives from various local health and mental health agencies including the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health and mental health agency Genesis.

Laconia PD proposing 'Spice' ban

LACONIA — The Police Department is asking the City Council to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the possession and sale of synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as "spice," K2" and a number of other names, within the confines of the city.

"Spice" can be any one of dozens of chemical compounds fashioned to mimic the effects of marijuana.However, toxicologists claim that comparing the effects of spice to marijuana is like comparing an air rifle to an assault rifle.

Although marketed as incense, spice is smoked and ingested with dire health effects. In August, Governor Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency after 41 people in Manchester suffered "serious medical reactions," half of them requiring treatment in hospitals, from using spice. Likewise, that same month three people in Concord using spice were hospitalized within 24 hours.

The proposed ordinance, modeled on those adopted by other municipalities would make it illegal to sell, barter, give display, possess or transport any material or mixture containing synthetic cannabinoids. The specific chemical designations of the illicit compounds are set forth in the ordinance. Those found in violation of the would be liable to a fine of $500 for each and all illicit material would be seized and destroyed by the Police Department.

The ordinance would take effect immediately upon its passage.

The council will consider the proposed ordinance when it meets on Monday, Oct. 27, beginning at 7 p..m.

Economic Development Council looks to invest in downtown real estate

LACONIA — The Belknap Economic Development Council is considering targeting distressed downtown buildings and using its own money — coupled with that of other public and private investors – to purchase, rehabilitate, and resell them as a way of spurring development in the downtown area.

The new project was announced yesterday morning at a breakfast meeting at the Belknap Mill hosted by the organization's board of directors for community stakeholders.

The BEDC is using the services of Jack Dugan — the longtime chair of the Monadnock Economic Development Council — who used a similar approach in downtown Keene that led to its revitalization.

"We want to take distressed properties and turn them into more productive properties," said Henry Lipman who is the chair of the BEDC.

According to Vice Chair Randy Eifert, the BEDC has seen a drop off in the number of small businesses coming to it for short-term business loans.

Traditionally, the BEDC served as a sub-prime lender — meaning it provided loans, using USDA Rural Development money, to businesses who did not immediately qualify for traditional lower interest bank loans.

When the then BCEDC was founded in the 1980s, Lipman explained that many banks had failed in the wake of the savings and loan crisis and money for capital projects from traditional banks had dried up.

Fast forward to today and banks are awash in money and most business people with a viable plan can qualify for corporate loans at more favorable rate than that offered by the BEDC.

Eifert said the BEDC has about $800,000 in capital and would consider "(holding) its nose and overpaying to get a hold of the right piece of property."

Using the Keene model, ideally the building would be rehabilitated using BEDC money that could be used to attract additional community development money and private investment, put to a productive purpose, and resold on the private market with the proceeds going to purchase yet another distressed building.

Should a building be in the downtown TIF or Tax Increment Financing District, the increase in taxable value would be used of offset any infrastructure costs needed for the project.
The newest project of the BECD would be augmented by the three already stated goals of the — to retain and attract young talent to the Lakes Region, to support creative entrepreneurs, and to enhance workforce development programming.

Domestic violence issue center stage at candidate forum in Laconia

LACONIA — Candidates for county and state political offices offered a variety of ideas for dealing with domestic violence at a candidates breakfast forum Friday morning which was hosted by the Belknap County Family Violence Prevention Council and held at the Lakes Region Community Services headquarters building.
Most agreed that domestic violence is a learned behavior which is brought about by a variety of causes, ranging from alcohol and drug abuse to poverty and mental illness, but independent candidate Peter Bolster of Alton, who has been a pastor for 50 years, said that he views it as a spiritual problem, ''welling up within all of us'' and said it is mirrored within our politics even at the local level.
''Young people see it from us, in our lack of respect for other points of view and our not working together,'' said Bolster, a former selectman and state representative, who said that ''violence and hate are inbred. We're not all nice people inside. Envy and rage are there just waiting to burst into flames.''
He urged those in politics to tone down their rhetoric and find ways of working together which create an environment of acceptance of other points of view.
Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin said that he has witnessed many incidents of domestic violence which ''make no sense whatsoever,'' many of them involving substance abuse and alcohol abuse and observed that it is not just those living in poverty who are engaged in such violence. ''It's across all socioeconomic lines.'' said Wiggin.
He said that law enforcement has become pretty good in reacting to domestic violence incidents but more work needs to be done on the pro-active, prevention side. ''We can't arrest our way out of this problem.''
Wiggin likened the problem to that of DWI, noting that DWI was once more or less tolerated by society until an awareness and education campaign which started in the 1970s helped bring abut tougher enforcement and a reduction in fatalities.
Both Wiggin and Dave Pollak (D-Laconia), a candidate for the Belknap County Commission, touched on professional football's problems with domestic violence and the suspension handed out to Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens after a video of him knocking his fiancee unconscious in a hotel elevator surfaced. Pollak said that once the video was widely played all kinds of stories about abuse by NFL players ''came out of the woodwork.'' He said that making domestic violence more of a visceral experience like the video did made people take a closer look at something they weren't generally not aware of.
Wiggin said that after the NFL initially fumbled its response to the Ray Rice incident it has produced a hard-hitting awareness campaign featuring TV ads which characterize domestic violence as ''unacceptable'' and which he thinks will prove to be very effective.
County Attorney Melissa Guldbransden said that she thinks that education and programming for inmates at the Belknap County Corrections facility are one area the county can concentrate on and State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) urged a community-based collaborative approach which involved mental health and substance abuse programs which utilize community resources as well as those of the county.
Pollak said the county needs a modern correctional facility with the kind of programs which will help reduce recidivism and that mental health courts and drug courts are needed to provide alternatives to incarceration along with a strong restorative justice program. ''We have to make a decision on whether we're willing to provide a minimum of the services needed to meet our responsibilities,'' said Pollak.
adding ''jails do not solve problems.''
Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton), who is running against Pollak for a seat on the county commission, said that he owns convenience stores at which he employs young women who have had children out of wedlock and knows about their struggles with domestic violence. He said that it is important that people speak out about violence, saying ''if you see something, say something.''
Rep. Bob Luther (R-Laconia) said that he has seen a whole generation of people develop who seem to have no hope and it is important that those struggling in low-paying jobs be provided with support for the idea that they can have a brighter future.
Dorothy Piquado (D-Gilford), a candidate for the House of Representatives, observed that violent video games are popular ''because they're exciting'' and said that was a part of the broader culture which must be taken into account. A volunteer at the county Department of Corrections, she said that anger management classes are important and that it was important to teach people ''not to be victims or live as victims.''
Tom Dawson (D-Laconia), another candidate for the House of Representatives, said a better effort to educate people about resources available to victims of domestic violence is needed and observed that the growing imbalance of wealth in the country is perpetuating the conditions which lead to violence.
Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton) said that it was important to improve the county jail so that it can provide programs to reduce violence.
Bolster said that government should find a way to pull together the groups involved in combating domestic violence and poverty and that better coordination between towns in the county could lead to a more efficient use of resources, not only when it comes to welfare, but also on police, fire and highway departments.


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Peter Bolster, an independent candidate for the state legislature from Alton, speaks at a candidates breakfast forum hosted by the Belknap County Family Violence Protection Council Friday morning in Laconia. State Representative Bob Luther (R-Laconia), right, follows the discussion. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), speaks at a candidates breakfast forum hosted by the Belknap County Family Violence Protection Council Friday morning in Laconia. Following the discussion are Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin , right, and Dorothy Piquado, center, (D-Gilford), a candidate for the state legislature. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)