Man days away from prison term offers Stand Up Laconia participants a first-hand account of heroin problem

LACONIA — Andy is on his way to prison.

After pleading guilty to conspiracy to drug sales, Andy was sentenced to 3 1/2 to 7 years with 2 years suspended in the New Hampshire State Prison. He self-surrenders on February 2.

But Thursday night, Andy, who has been clean and sober for 20 months, wanted to share his story at a Stand Up Laconia meeting as part of his agreement to speak at schools and his desire to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Stand Up Laconia is a growing coalition of people in the city and the surrounding area who are trying to address drug and alcohol dependency. Stemming from conversations at Better Together meetings, the task of Stand Up Laconia is to identify prevention and treatment programs to help people, determine the obstacles for accessing these programs, and find a way to overcome them.

The 30 or so people attending Thursday's meeting at the Middle School spent most the evening working in small groups. Andy landed at a table with "P"— a woman whose nephew is currently incarcerated and who has had a hard time finding a residential recovery program for him after his release, "F" — a young woman who has been clean and sober for seven months and is a Dean's list student in college who wants to be an accountant, a local firefighter, and a gentleman who has been part of Stand Up Laconia since its inception.

Both "F" and Andy think one of the best resources they have found is Alcoholics Anonymous.

"You can find AA everywhere," said Andy, who also admitted his real drug of choice is alcohol.

Andy was initially indicted for one count of heroin sales — death resulting. He said that when he learned that he was complicit in a young man's death, he confessed all of his drug use to his wife, who threw him out of the house and subsequently divorced him.

With nowhere to go and a desire to become clean and sober, he went to an old friend who runs the Riverbend Commnity Mental Health in Meredith and entered their treatment program. He became a counselor but said his buddy was forced to let him go after his decision to plead guilty to the conspiracy charge.

He also noted his own personal physician helped him tremendously but understands that's not an option for many heroin addicts.

He was in Riverbend and sober for two months when he heard the Meredith Police were looking for him and he turned himself in.

Despite having to serve 1 1/2 years in prison and having his marriage dissolve, Andy considers himself one of the luckier ones.

He said his 20 months of sobriety have forced him to remember what he lost and, what he still has. He has his health, something he feels he would have lost if he continued down the same path.

"I've lost 60 pounds and I work out at the gym," he said, noting that he thinks he'd be dead now if his drug and alcohol use had continued.

He said his children have been very supportive but still regrets the loss of his 27-year marriage. He said he is also embarrassed by having his name and mug shot in local newspapers, both of which covered his case exhaustively.

"It's my fault," he said, noting that sobriety has made him realize that.

On his eight of 12 steps of an AA step program, he said he is at the part where he has to make amends. He said writing to his ex-wife was going to be tough.

After his prison sentence, he wants to go to various high schools and talk about drug abuse. Contributing to Stand Up Laconia is part of his plan for discouraging drug and alcohol use, especially among young people.

"F" agreed with Andy about AA. She said the people in AA tend to be older and more professional than those who attend Narcotics Anonymous.

She said many of the people who attend NA are "still using" and for her the best trick she's learned to keep herself sober has been staying away from other users.

"My relapse was because I was hanging out with my old crowd," she said.

She credits Genesis Behavior Health, the regional mental health agency, for helping her the most. She said she attended an intense outpatient program that met three time a week for three hours per day over a four month period.

Since then she's had one relapse triggered by a job loss and a loss of health insurance. She said she's also served jail time as a result of her addiction.

"F" said that she doesn't have any mental illness, as many users do, and without that component there are very few programs for people who are addicted to drugs.

She said the Lakes Region General Hospital tried to help by giving her some pamphlets to read during one of her visits there, but she said she was too "dope sick" to read them.

Both described heroin and opiate withdrawal or "dope sick" as "the flu times 100."

"F" said one of the most frustrating things to her is the people who try to help addicts have never "walked in the shoes" of withdrawal and staying clean. She said she's grateful for Stand Up Laconia and the rest of the programs in the community and feels her role to play is explaining how difficult it really is to stay clean and sober.

"P" said one of the biggest obstacles to helping her nephew stay clean and sober is the lack of residential drug treatment programs in the area — and money.

She said she contacted Riverbend in Meredith but was told that sending her nephew to a place that was close to home is not recommended for recovery.

"He's too close to the people who he used to be friends with," she said.

"Every (residential program) I looked at was $3,000 to $5,000 per month and they were in Maine," she said. "How can I be there for him if I'm working 40 hours a week here."

Andy agreed that her nephew shouldn't do his recovery in his backyard. He said he went to Riverbend because his friend ran it and he was older and not familiar with the other people who were there.

Everyone talked about DARE, the substance abuse prevention program aimed at middle school-age children. "F" said it was an "okay" problem but said kids get tired of the "just say no" concept. They all said children need to be told to just walk away and not get involved with the people who are offering drugs or alcohol.
"Peer pressure is huge," said "F" who said she has to stay away from the people she knew when she was using.

"Middle school is too late," said Andy who has two adult children. "We need to get to kids in elementary school.

He also suggested that making it real to children is very important.

Other positive resources mentioned by the group were the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club, any kind of physical fitness or sports programs, and the Nathan Brody problem.

Stand Up Laconia meets next at the Middle School on Thursday, Feb.19, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Prof. Taylor only person to express interest in open seat on Belknap Commission

LACONIA — Only one candidate, Hunter Taylor from Alton, has filed to fill the vacancy on the Belknap County Commission which was created when Steven Nedeau of Meredith resigned effective Jan. 1.
The Belknap County Convention is expected to take up the vacancy when it meets Monday night at the Belknap County complex and may take action at that time to fill the vacancy.

Nedeau represented Meredith, Center Harbor, Gilford and Alton. His replacement must be a resident of one of those four townships.
Taylor, an attorney, is professor emeritus at the Rutgers University School of Law. He who moved to the area several years ago from New Jersey, has been a high-profile critic of the previous board of commissioner's plan to build a new county jail with a so-called community corrections (comprehensive rehabilitation) component, writing any number of long letters on the subject to editors of local newspapers.

He was also a vocal critic of the recent commissioners — Nedeau, Ed Philpot and John Thomas — on another matter and charged in a letter to the editor published in The Daily Sun on December 18 that the members of that board and County Administrator Debra Shackett violated RSA 24:15 which reads "No county commissioner, or elected or appointed county officer, shall pay, or agree to pay, or incur any liability for the payment of, any sum of money for which the county convention has made no appropriation or in excess of any appropriation so made...."
He maintains that the county incurred legal bills as a result of the commissioners' actions for which no funds had been appropriated.
Commissioners have maintained that they were relying on a state statute 29-A:2, which describes the process which will be followed in the defense and indemnification of county officers and employees in the event of any claim or civil action against the county and provides that the county ''shall defray all costs of such representation or defense, to be paid from funds not otherwise appropriated.''
The law does not address a procedure which would be followed in the event of legal action taken by the convention against the commissioners, which was the case last year when the convention filed its suit against the commission over budget line item authority, which led to temporary injunction prohibiting commissioners from transferring more than $300 without approval of the convention's Executive Committee.
Taylor's letter calls for an investigation by the county convention of alleged misconduct by county officials under New Hampshire RSA 24: 17 which provides: "The county convention may appoint a committee of its own members ... to investigate conditions pertaining to the conduct of county affairs by any county officer or any person appointed or employed by such officer, which committee shall have power to summon witnesses, examine them under oath, secure a transcript of the testimony and do other necessary acts to conduct such investigation."
Another law RSA 24:18 covers the expenses of an investigation by the convention and reads; ''The county convention shall appropriate a certain sum for expenses of any committee established pursuant to RSA 24:17. The reasonable expenses of such investigation shall be paid by the county when approved by a judge of the superior court.''
Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) has called for the county convention to launch and investigation based on RSA 24:17 but was challenged by convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) who said that the county doesn't have any money for the investigation and would have to hire an attorney to conduct it.

New 48-unit apartment building to be dedicated to LRCC students

LACONIA — Lakes Region Community College will be offering off-campus student housing starting this fall at a 48-unit apartment building which will be built off Mile Hill Road less than a mile from the college campus by Anagnost Investments of Manchester.
Land clearing is already underway at the site and the college and developer are planing a ribbon cutting ceremony in the near future, according to LRCC President Scott Kalicki, who made the announcement at a breakfast for local lawmakers held at the college Friday morning.
He explained that the building will be leased by and managed by the college and is only the second student housing project in the seven-school N.H. Community College system.
''It will help us attract students from outside our area, including more out-of-staters,'' Kalicki told legislators, adding that it allow students to have the best of both worlds by providing the ability to live off campus while being within walking distance of their classrooms.
The student apartments will be run and operated exclusively by the college for LRCC students and will have two or three bedrooms, a living room and fully equipped kitchen as well as coin-operated laundry and a common area.
The Anagnost firm also plans to build another 48-unit apartment building as part of the same. The second building will be used for rentals to the public at market rates.
N.H. Community College system President Ross Gittell told lawmakers that the system is seeking flat funding in its new, two-year budget and wants an additional $3.2 million to further reduce tuition. He said lowering tuition, which currently is in the $5,000 to $6,000 range for full-time students, will enhance the educational and economic opportunities for students and help provide skilled workers for employers in the area.
He cited the success of the system's advanced manufacturing programs, which have seen enrollment increase by 60 percent for the 100 different programs which offered around the state. He said that currently total enrollment in the community college system is 27,000 and that the goal is to increase that to 37,000 in 10 years and to have 65 percent of adults with education beyond high school by 2025.
Kalicki said students at LRCC can take advantage of dual admission programs at UNH and Plymouth State University which will see them accepted as juniors at either school after two years at LRCC provided they maintain a 2.5 grade point average. He said that a pilot program will allow high school juniors to have dual enrollment at a community college and their local high school and enable them to graduate with ''a high school diploma in one hand and an associate's degree in another.''
Kalicki highlighted the school's advanced manufacturing program, which he said involves 21 local industries and the school's award-winning automotive program, which will soon have a brand new automotive complex.
Steve Hurst, parts manager at Cantin Chevrolet, said that the auto dealership employs five graduates from the LRCC program which enables the company to ''grow our own technicians.''
Gary Groleau of N.H. Ball Bearing and the state Board of Education said that he was pleased with what he sees in LRCC's advanced manufacturing programs in which students from the Huot Technical Center in Laconia move on to the college. ''They find their way right into the doors of our facility and are finding gainful employment with high paying jobs,'' said Groleau.
Steve Guyer, a member of the college's advisory committee and a recently retired head of the technical center at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro told legislators that the community college system provides a good return on investment and that it is important that the state maintain its support.
Noting that the state has an increasingly aging population he asked ''what are your kids and grandchildren going to do for jobs?'' and said developing a skilled workforce is an important priority for the state.

Steve Guyer, former head of the technical center at Kingswood Regional High School and a member of the advisory board at Lakes Region Community College, urges legislators to support the state Community College System at a legislative breakfast held at LRCC Friday morning. (Roger Amsdem/for The Laconia Daily Sun)