Sanbornton's swap shop to reopen Dec. 26

SANBORNTON — The swap shop at the transfer station is expected to reopen the day after Christmas after an overwhelming majority of the 185 registered voters at the special Town Meeting last week voted to overturn the decision of the board of selectmen to close the swap shop and deny access to the metal pile.

Voters also decided to re-establish the Solid Waste Committee. But, a third proposal to require residents using the Transfer Station to display sticker on their vehicles as proof of their residency was rejected when questions arose about whether property owners who reside in other municipalities would be entitled to use the Transfer Station. Several speakers suggested the question be referred to the Solid Waste Committee.

In September, the selectmen, acting on the recommendation of Primex, the town's insurance carrier, voted unanimously to close the swap shop and prohibit picking the metal pile. Within two weeks a petition was circulating to convene a special Town Meeting to reverse the decision, which was submitted to the selectmen when they met in October. At a public meeting in November, one speaker after another challenged what they called misplaced or exaggerated concerns about liability, extolled the virtues of the swap shop and called for a special meeting to reverse the board's decision.

Lynn Chong, who was at the forefront of the effort to reopen the swap shop, said "I'm very happy that so many people came and acted in a cooperative spirit without any acrimony."

She stressed that the swap shop offered an effective and popular means of recycling, which reduces the cost of disposing of solid waste, as wel as plays a role in the social life of the community.

Likewise, Chong said that, despite the concerns of Primex, the metal pile can be managed safely and offered examples from a number of towns, including Meredith, where access is permitted.

Following the vote, Dave Nickerson, who chairs the selectboard, said the selectmen will discuss the implications of the vote when at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday. Although he expected the swap shop to reopen promptly, he indicated that some improvements will be required to ensure public safety and efficient operations at the transfer station in light of the report by Primex.

"The question is: How are we going to do it and how are we going to pay for it?" he said, suggesting that an additional employee and a new building may be necessary at a cost of between $20,000 and $40,000. He also said that the board will consider adopting rules to protect those combing through the metal pile.

Meanwhile, town administrator Charles Smith said that seven candidates — Lynn Chong, Andy Sanborn, Robert White, Dave Swany, Jennifer Holt, Donna Schimming and Jeff Burns — have applied for the five positions on the Solid Waste Committee. He anticipated that the selectmen would make the appointments in January.

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A program that works - Former addicts tell their stories of recovery at city forum

LACONIA — Ethan, 25, began selling and using drugs as a teenager.

"I totaled five cars, nodding off while delivering drugs, and spent a lot of time in jail," he said. "I tried everything. My parents took a second mortgage and spent $70,000. And I lost seven close friends in two years."

Kaitlyn, 23, also turned to drugs as a teen and shot heroin for five years, interrupting her habit only long enough to deliver a child, she said, before the spiral began again.

"What was supposed to be the best years of my life quickly became the worst years of my life," she said.

She awoke to find the lifeless body of her best friend on the floor her home and recalled, as his body was taken away, "I went to my bathroom and began to do the same heroin that just killed my best friend."

Jeff, 33, was a young roofer injured in a fall.

"My doctor gave me all painkillers I asked for," he said. "Then he lost his license to prescribe and I started buying on the street, prescription drugs and heroin. I lost everything," he said. "Every addict tells the same story."

For 12 years, he lived from one fix to the next while serving three stints in county jails for crimes he described as "some not so petty and all drug-related.

Today, all three are recovering addicts, clean and sober, who were featured at a forum this week hosted by New Futures at at the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region to highlight the importance of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program in addressing the scourge of drug addiction.

Funded by Medicaid, the New Hampshire Health Protection Program provides health insurance, which includes coverage for substance abuse disorders, to adults whose incomes are less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Since the program was introduced in 2014, almost 45,000 people have enrolled, an estimated 7,560, or 17 percent, of whom meet the clinical criteria to qualify for the substance abuse benefit.

Unless the New Hampshire Legislature reauthorizes the program, it will expire on Dec. 31, 2016. While more than 100,000 people, or 10 percent, of the adult population of the state have a substance abuse disorder, there is capacity to treat no more than 6,000. When treatment providers were polled last year, nearly seven of 10 indicated they wished to expand capacity, but without an assurance that the New Hampshire Health Protection Program would continue were unwilling to make the investment.

"The reauthorization of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program," New Futures insists, "is the single most important tool we have as a state to help address the current opioid epidemic."

Ethan, Kaitlyn and Jeff are all enrolled in the program and each said that it was essential to their recovery.

"It is access to that treatment that has had a major part in keeping me out of prison," Jeff said, "helped to heal a broken relationship with my family, made me available to be a proper provider to my family, and has me alive and present during this holiday season to my 14-year-old stepdaughter. It is Medicaid," he stressed, "that has made treatment accessible to me because I would not have been able to otherwise afford it."

"If it wasn't for the insurance," Kaitlyn said, "I would not be here today sharing with you my experience of strength and hope. I would have been the one leaving my child motherless. Or just another statistic stuck behind prison walls while my addiction grew worse."

Ethan said that after all else failed, the access to treatment that the program provided has enabled him to shake his addiction and open a small business.

"it is getting us all back to becoming better people," he said, "working, paying taxes, obeying the law and helping others."

Both Jeff and Ethan noted that while they qualify for various kinds of public assistance, they receive only what they require. Jeff said he is eligible for food stamps, but does not receive them.

"I work 60 hours a week. I'm not always going to rely on Medicaid," he said. "It's helping me now stay clean and sober, but I'm going to use it only as I need it to rebuild my life."

"What I need, I take advantage of," Ethan said simply. "What I don't need, I don't take."

Officer Eric Adams of the Laconia Police Department, who is assigned exclusively to working to set addicts on the road to recovery, described the New Hampshire Health Protection Program as "a tool for law enforcement." He explained that most of the addicts he encounters have no health insurance, though they frequently suffer from poor health. Enrolling in the program provides access not only to treatment for their addiction, but also to comprehensive health care services., which Adams said "gives them a greater sense of self-worth." He called the program "a tool for law enforcement," which, if abandoned, "will really take a toll on everybody, not just those with addictions."

Likewise Jacqui Abikoff, executive director of Horizons Counseling Center in Gilford, noted that "medical issues can drive addiction" and the program ensures that addicts "get the health care they need to support their recovery. They know they have something in hand they can use."

Jeff, who now identifies himself as "a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a father and a friend," asked "if access to treatment is what saves lives, keeps families from feeling the never-ending pain of loss and ultimately makes a community whole again, isn't it worth keeping a program that makes that treatment available?"

 

CAPTION: Officer Eric Adams of the Laconia Police Department, left, and Jacqui Abikoff, executive director of Horizons Counseling Center, next to him, joined recovering addicts Kaitlyn and Jeff to stress the role of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program in providing access to treatment for substance abuse hosted by New Futures, whose communications director, Joe Gallagher is at right. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

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Brendan Minnihan excited about being chosen as new superintendent (407)

LACONIA – Newly named Laconia schools Superintendent Brendan Minnihan said he thinks one of his biggest challenges when he comes to Laconia in July will be to continually provide support to the transient student population.

He said Monday that he is excited and challenged by working in a district where the student body is facing increasing economic challenges and is proud to be working for one where the administration and School Board are so dedicated to them.

"Laconia has so many good programs and good things already in place," said Minnihan.

Minnihan was chosen in a meeting held early Saturday morning and was one of two candidates who made it through the long application process. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics from Carnegie Mellon University, a master's from Penn State and his doctorate from Indiana University. He is currently the superintendent in the Contoocook Valley Regional School District.

Minnihan said he is very impressed with the student body. During one of his tours of the Laconia High School, the students he spoke with were "very articulate and passionate."

Minnihan was also impressed with Laconia's facilities and appreciates the way the district has been able to continue to make improvements at the older schools like the high school despite the loss of the state building aid program.

Another positive he sees in Laconia is the excellence of the past and current administration and the dedication of the School Board to all of the people of Laconia. He said he has spoken with a number of people who have worked in the district and all of them had good things to say.

When asked about the recent Smarter Balanced tests and the School Board's desire to see considerable improvement in the lower grades, he said the district has to do what it can to provide technology knowledge to its youngest students.

"We need them to be technologically rich and get lots of practice," he said. "It's a shame we did poorly – not because we didn't know the material, but because we were unfamiliar with the mechanics of the test-taking," he said.

For at least his first year in Laconia, Minnihan said he would continue to live in a Con-Val Regional School District community because his daughter will be a senior there next year.

"We promised her [she could graduate with her class] when I applied for this appointment, but after that we'll just have to see," he said.

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