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'Drug & alcohol epidemic' in Lakes Region, says speaker at annual Public Health meeting

NORTHFIELD — The keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health told a gathering of some 125 people at the Merrimack Valley Railroad freight station Thursday morning that the Lakes Region has ''a drug and alcohol epidemic'' which is contributing to an increase in poverty and crime in the area.
Linda Paquette, executive director of the New Futures organization, which works to prevent and reduce alcohol and drug problems in New Hampshire, said that the problem is made worse by the lack of access to treatment programs for those in need.
''Only Texas is worse in terms of access to treatment,'' said Paquette who said that it is estimated that one on 10 people in Belknap County, some 6,567 people are in need of substance abuse treatment.
Paquette said that 64 percent of the people admitted to the N.H. State Hospital in the first six months of 2013 had a history of substance abuse but there is no substance abuse treatment at the facility and no Medicaid substance abuse benefit.
She said recent surveys of drug and alcohol use in the county show that it has higher rates than the rest of the state and that the problems have huge impacts on public safety, the criminal justice and health care systems and the economy.
Paquette noted that 70 percent of people admitted to prison have significant addition disorders and that 90 percent of those offenders returned to prison have drug or alcohol problems.
She said parolees and those on probation are mostly uninsured and must wait for an indigent care opening into a program, which often is longer than six weeks, and that most care provided in those situations is uncompensated, which keeps providers from meeting the demand for services.
Paquette said that increasing access to treatment is a major priority, which full funding of the state's Alcohol Fund and expanding Medicaid coverage would help accomplish.
She singled out State Senator Jeanie Forrester of Meredith for having raised awareness among her colleagues of the Alcohol Fund, which is supposed to be paid for by a tax on alcohol sales but has never been fully funded.
Paquette said that strong leadership and a focused community response which includes public-private collaboration are needed to bring the alcohol abuse problem under control. She said a recent study by economist Brian Gottlob estimated the economic impact of excessive alcohol consumption is $1.15 billion a year.
The organization presented its first annual Public Health Champion Awards. Winners were:
Workplace - Meredith Village Savings Bank
Community - Lakes Region Food Network
Individual – Richard and Carol Wallace of Alton.
The Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health was presented with the Military Leadership Award from Jo Moncher, bureau chief of community-based military programs for the NH Department of Health and Human Services, for its work on behalf of military families.

Caption for PPHaward pix

Lisa Morris, executive director of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, and Sally Minkow, president of the board of directors of the LRPPH, accept the Military Leadership Award from Jo Moncher, bureau chief of community-based military programs for the NH Department of Health and Human Services. The organization was honored for its work on behalf of New Hampshire military service personnel. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 27 September 2013 02:45

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Wheelchair bound youth struck by car in - 121 sidewalkcar

MEREDITH — A wheelchair-bound local youth was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia by Stewart's ambulance yesterday evening after he was struck by a car while crossing Main Street in a crosswalk at 5:17 p.m.

Police Sgt. Robert Chance said the boy's injuries appeared not to be life-threatening.

He said the youth was near the corner of Main and Lake Street by the Public Library when a car driven by Kenneth Brady, 47, of Corliss Hill Road struck him.

Chance said Brady was unable to stop before hitting the boy but was able to stop his 2009 Toyota Corolla while it was still in the crosswalk.

Police said neither drugs, alcohol, nor cell phone use were factors in what Chance called an accident.



Last Updated on Friday, 27 September 2013 02:35

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Speaker at Alton forum sees workforce housing initiative as conspiracy by federal & state agencies to take control of local land use

ALTON — For the second time in as many weeks, more than 75 people crowded into the Gilman Museum on Wednesday night to voice their opinions, apprehensions and suspicions that an initiative to bring the town into compliance with a state statute requiring municipalities to provide opportunities to develop so-called workforce housing represents a sinister ploy by federal and state agencies to rewrite local zoning ordinances and trample private property rights.

"What I've not heard tonight is anything about the impact of workforce housing on Alton," said Bob Longabaugh as the meeting drew to a close.

"Workforce housing is part of a bigger picture," warned Ken Eyring of Windham, the featured speaker at the second of two forums hosted by the Alton Business Association. He explained that workforce housing is but one aspect of Granite State Future, a program funded and overseen by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) and managed by the nine regional planning commissions in the state.

Stressing that the program "bypasses our elected representatives," he said that it caters to those protected against discrimination by the federal Fair Housing Act, including racial, ethnic and religious groups as well as low and moderate income households. He cited a document from HUD that referred to developing strategies to "reduce or eliminate barriers" to fair housing, which included New Hampshire's "strong tradition of private property rights and hostility to planning and zoning."

Eyring noted that Alton accepted a grant from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority (NHHFA), which in turn accepted funds from HUD under an agreement that authorizes HUD to "interpret" the results of the work funded by the grant. He claimed that the agreement between HUD and the NHHFA applies to Alton, which is subject to HUD's oversight.

Referring to establishment of regional planning commissions in 1969, State Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) said that was when the federal government began influencing local planning decisions. The regional planning commissions, she continued, "are not about municipalities working together but are part of a much grander plan." Cormier spoke of federal agencies "bypassing our Legislature and going into our communities to change our zoning laws."

"Your representation in Concord is being usurped," Cormier declared, vowing to file legislation that would do away with regional planning commissions, which she described as "huge, bloated, corrupt" organizations. "Our zoning ordinance shouldn't be manipulated by anyone," she insisted. "It's definitely a local control issue."

A week earlier she called for repeal of the workforce housing statute and this week repeated "this has got to go."

Cormier received a warm welcome from Linda Hart, who said that along with others "we're going to go on the road to as many towns as we can to tell them 'wake up!' We'll tell them why we don't like workforce housing and don't want regional planning commissions," she said. "People are waking up all over the state."

The third featured presenter, Ric Perreault, who operates a business in Rochester and owns a lakefront home in Alton, suggested that rather than enabling workforce housing, an article should be put to Town Meeting to "get rid of the town planner." He warned that in Alton as in Rochester so-called workforce housing would become subsidized housing.

When town officials present at the meeting were asked what they thought of what they heard, Tom Hoopes, vice-chairman of the Planning Board and a member of the Zoning Amendment Committee considering the question of workforce housing, replied that he heard "a great deal of confusion."

Hoopes explained that the only way to adopt, repeal or amend a zoning ordinance was by a vote of Town Meeting, dismissing suggestions that federal agencies could set local zoning policy. Likewise, he said that speakers displayed "a total misunderstanding of the regional planning commissions." He said that he represented Alton on the Lakes Region Planning Commission and found that instead of imposing policies on municipalities, the staff of the commission collected data and conducted research to assist them in addressing local issues. "You need real honest answers and you're not getting them," he cautioned.

"You can say that again," retorted one of his many critics.

"I think there's a lot of ignorance out there and only a few of us on top of things," said another man, after expressing misgivings about Granite State Future, workforce housing and Common Core.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 September 2013 02:32

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New LHS Science Center dedicated to 'local guy who made good'

LACONIA — "Fantastic" was the first word out of Richard (Dick) Dearborn's mouth last night after his first tour of the state-of-the-art high school science center that bears his name.

Dearborn and the leadership of the manufacturing company he founded, Eptam Plastics of Northfield, made a $100,000 donation to the School District's 2012 Capital Campaign to supplement the budget for the renovation and expansion of the Huot Regional Technical Education Center and other campus improvements at Laconia High School. Part of the project was the construction of a new science wing, with seven classrooms, that is now the Richard A. Dearborn Science Center.

Dearborn was joined at a dedication ceremony by members of his family, his work family, and members of the community who came to thank him and tour the new center. He is a 1954 graduate of LHS.

City Councilor Matt Lahey, who also headed the capital campaign, referred to Dearborn as a "local guy who made good and does a lot of good for his community."

He described the e-mail informing him of the donation as one of the most exciting of his life. Lahey is a 1973 graduate of Laconia High.

The new science classrooms and labs are in the spot that housed some of the programming at the Huot Center, space that was renovated and equipped as part of the $14 million construction and renovation project that also includes the Bank of New Hampshire Stadium and a new 32,000-square-foot building that now houses many of the technical center's programs.

Eptam Plastics also works with the school to coordinate its curriculum to make science and technology students ready for the jobs that await them after graduation.

Last night's dedication is part one of an event-laden Homecoming Weekend that includes the traditional Homecoming Parade to downtown and back (4 p.m.), the football game at 7 p.m., the dedication of the Fitzgerald Field (6:45 p.m.) and other alumni, school sports, and community events.

Science Department chairs and teachers Bonnie Ashworth and Ivy Leavitt-Carlson guided two groups of tour takers through the new center. Each teacher spoke briefly about his or her science program that includes physics, chemistry, biology, and the Huot Center's Bio-Technology Program –— one of the fastest growing high school programs that serves all of the Lakes Region's students.

One teacher said "amazing space" when referring to what it's like to teach students in the new center and that was the universal sentiments of the teachers who showcased their labs and their programs that include Advanced Placement Chemistry for the first time this year.

"This is a new generation of scientists," said School Board Chair Joe Cormier, "and because of the Dearborn family, we'll be able to give these students the education (they'll need)."

For Eptam Plastics and the Dearborn family, the science labs are an investment in their company in the form of potential employees.

"We look at the science center as part of our future," said Eptam President Jeff Hollinger.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 September 2013 02:24

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