Recovery Court - one small effort at battling addictions

Treatment, not jail. That's the goal of drug courts. Despite the limited capacity and mixed results of the of the Recovery Court at the Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division during the past four years, those engaged in the process welcome the initiative of the governor and lawmakers to establish and fund so-called "drug courts" in each of the 10 counties of the state.
Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen said the Recovery Court has capacity for 10 clients at any one time, and since the first was enrolled in 2011 has had 21 participants, five of whom have graduated. Another eight were terminated, an equal number of cases are pending and at least one has died from an apparent overdose.
Guldbrandsen explained that the court is intended for those addicts with extensive criminal records facing prison sentences for their most recent offense who, if left to themselves, run the highest risk of committing more crimes to support their addiction. She stressed that these individuals have histories of property crimes, but are not considered dangerous to others.
Applicants are screened by a team consisting of the county attorney, city prosecutor and probation officer, along with officials of the New Hampshire Public Defender, Belknap County Restorative Justice program, Belknap County Department of Corrections and Horizon Counseling Services. Those accepted are subjected to an intense regimen of outpatient treatment and counseling, accompanied by close monitoring and supervision, that requires between one year and two to complete.
Participants are required to appear in court each week , attend a specified number of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each week, perform 250 hours of community service and, if without work, search for employment. And they are always subject to random drug tests.
Each week Horizons Counseling, which manages each case and provides the treatment, reports to the team, which may impose sanctions or grant rewards according to the conduct of the participants, with the stiffest sanctions reserved for failing to tell the truth.
"If they relapse, there is no sanction," Guldbrandsen said. "But if they relapse, then deny it, they are sanctioned for lying. They learn to be truthful."
Tym Rourke of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, who chairs the Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, described drug courts as "a piece of the puzzle." He explained that they cater to "a small cohort of the those at greatest risk without placing an added burden on the limited capacity for treatment. These are the individuals at the deep end of the pool," he said.
At the same time, Jacqui Abikoff, executive director of Horizons Counseling Services in Gilford, which provides case management as well as counseling treatment services to the Laconia Recovery Court, said that the additional responsibilities have stretched the resources of her agency.
Abikoff said case management requires monitoring participants in the program — making sure they search for work, attend meetings, perform community service — as well as navigating them through the process of enrolling in Medicaid and making and keeping doctors' appointments. Meanwhile, Horizons provides three-and-a-half hours of counseling and treatment for each participant each week and another two-and-a-half hours of counseling on "criminal and addictive thinking."
Currently, the Laconia Recovery Court simply represents an additional responsibility for those who manage it, without any additional funding from either the state or county. Proposed legislation would provide counties with between $100,000 and $245,000, based on their population, to fund drug courts.
Abikoff anticipates that any additional funding would be applied to offset the administrative costs of case management, which unlike counseling and treatment are not reimbursed by Medicaid. More importantly, she said the uncertainty surrounding the future of the state's expanded Medicaid program has chilled plans and investment to increase the capacity for substance abuse treatment, which would enable drug courts to increase participation. She said that Horizons has approached officials of Belknap County about funding that would enable the agency to double the number of participants in the Recovery Court from 10 to 20.
Abikoff said drug courts offer a means of addressing a particular population of addicts that spares the costs of incarceration, treating medical conditions arising from substance abuse and the corrosive impacts of addiction and crime on families. She emphasized that even many of those who fail to complete the program or return to drugs benefit from it.
"Once you are in recovery," she said, "you stay that way. Even those who relapse have returned," she said, "They say 'I've skinned my knee. Help me before I break my leg.' They've learned they can do it."

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Motion hearing for Kibby trial begins in Belknap

LACONIA – Accused kidnapper and rapist Nathaniel Kibby, 35, appeared for the first time in Belknap County Superior Court yesterday for the first of three scheduled days of hearings about his pending trial.

Kibby, who was dressed in a blue shirt and khaki pants, sat next to his four-person defense team headed by the lead attorney of the Belknap County Public Defenders office, Jesse Friedman, and was in constant communication with him. The four-person prosecution team was led by New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Jane Young.

Extra security for Courtroom 2, which is the smaller of two courtrooms, was provided by the Belknap County Sheriff's Department, which had two officers posted at the entry to it. Security around the rest of the building appeared to be normal. Three people – two women and a man – attended yesterday's hearings as observers. State and local news crews were also on hand.

In a case that's drawn national attention, Kibby was indicted on 205 separate charges that include kidnapping his then 14-year-old alleged victim in North Conway on Oct. 9 while she was walking home from school and allegedly holding her prisoner and repeatedly raping her in his Gorham home and a storage trailer until this July.

With Judge Larry Smukler presiding, the defense and prosecution had agreed earlier this year that the charges from Carroll and Coos County would be consolidated and heard in Belknap County. Kibby faces a 206th charge of threatening Young, for which he will be tried separately. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a motion to remove Young as prosecutor was denied.

Smukler has or will hear argument for 20 motions from the both the prosecution and the defense regarding evidence, testimony, and some preliminary housekeeping items during the three days set aside for them. In some instances he will rule from the bench ,and in others he will weigh the arguments and issue his decisions in writing.

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A Muskrat by any other name... Baseball team drops Laconia for Winnipesaukee

LACONIA — The Laconia Muskrats are no more. The team is changing its name to the Winnipesaukee Muskrats in the hope of widening its appeal in the Lakes Region.
Kristian Svindland, general manager of the Laconia Muskrats, the city's franchise in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, announced yesterday that the ownership and management of the team have made the switch.
Svindland informed the Parks and Recreation Commission of the decision when it met last night. Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said the commissioners one way or another to the news.
He emphasized that "Laconia is our home," but added "the team is for the Lakes Region. He noted that Robbie Mills Field is less than 30 minutes from Alton, 25 minutes from Tilton and 20 minutes from Meredith while Plymouth is within 30 minutes of the ballpark.
Svindland said attendance has been a challenge during the first six seasons, lagging behind the numbers posted by other teams in the league – most, if not all, of which have larger populations to drawn from. The Newport Gulls, perhaps the strongest franchise in the league, draws crowds of 2,400," he said, while some 1,200 regularly watch the Keene Swamp Bats. He said three other teams in the league also have names designating regions — the Vermont Mountaineers, who play in Montpelier; the Valley Blue Sox, who play in Holyoke, Massachusetts; and the Ocean State Waves, who play in South Kingston, Rhode Island.
Likewise, Svindland noted that the host families who house players during the season are not confined to Laconia, but reside in the greater Lakes Region.
"We want to encourage our neighbors from Franklin to Wolfeboro, Belmont to Plymouth to attend games," he said.
Apart from the name, Svindland said nothing will change. The logo will remain the same and Marko will continue as the mascot. Although the team will sport new uniforms, the colors will remain Columbia blue with brown trim.
Last month, the father-and-son partnership of Jonathan and Noah Crane that brought the Laconia Muskrats to Laconia sold their franchise to a trio of businessmen from Portsmouth – Todd Hewett, who is the president of the organization, Ira Blumenthal and Andy Minckler – and named Svindland, a longtime resident of Laconia, general manager with responsibility for day-to-day operations.
"This is a dream come true for me," said Svindland. "I love baseball and the city of Laconia, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to help attract the most talented players to our team, improve the experience for the fans at the park, and also strengthen the team's ties to the community by getting our players involved in a variety of community service projects."

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