4th floor wing at LRGH receives $4-m renovation, ready for patients tomorrow

LACONIA – Donations from area residents during the latest LRGHealthcare capital campaign have funded a $4 million renovation of Fourth Floor North wing at Lakes Region General Hospital, which will serve patients receiving palliative care – or those who are recovering from serious illness or those approaching the end of life.

The ward will also provide space for children recovering from pediatric surgery.

Newly designed, but within the wing's original dimensions, the rooms and the three nurses' stations have all been redone in warm colors. There is a "nourishment" station near each nurses' station with ice, cold drinks, and snacks.

"There will be three RNs for every five patients," head nurse Diana Main said, adding there is additional staff personnel, such as nurses aides to assist, and a one-to-five ratio is considered very good by national hospital standards.

The halls and family waiting areas are lined with local art and photography.

Each patient room will have a single bed with pullout couches in some to allow a family member to stay with a patient – especially the children.

Each room has its own bathroom with a patient lift systems that helps people move from their beds to the toilet, or to a chair. Every bathroom has its own shower.

Main said the mobile assisting devices will also reduce injuries to staff who assist patients with moving to and from bathrooms.

At least two of the rooms are negatively pressurized in order to accommodate patients with air-born diseases, like tuberculosis.

Main said the renovation was part of a master plan to redo the older part of the hospital now that the new tower is complete.

She said the next project in the master plan is to update and enlarge the hospital's emergency room.

During the project that lasted eight months, Main said the Fourth Floor North patients were relocated to various places in the hospital that best suited the care that they needed.

Patients will be in the newly renovated ward beginning tomorrow morning. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo - Maureen Bienarz)

Bedtime burglar denied early release from prison

LACONIA — Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill has denied a request made by one of the two "bedtime" burglars for a 300-day reduction in his sentence for academic progress he has made while in prison.

O'Neill said that he is denying the request because of the severity of Joshua Shepard's crimes and because three of his victims said the impact of the crime has not in anyway been mitigated. O'Neill noted that he had two violations while incarcerated.

Shepard and Spencer Mullarkey broke into at least 26 homes in Laconia, Sanbornton, Gilford, and Belmont while the inhabitants were inside sleeping.
Taking only money and cigarettes, the actions of the two caused panic in the area and were able to stay one step ahead of police for about three months during the summer of 2011.

In one case, one of the men was in a local woman's second floor bedroom when she awoke, threw a lamp and started screaming, which scared him away.

The four communities plus the the Belknap County Sheriff's Department had formed a task force to try and catch Shepard and Mullarkey and had scheduled a media conference to announce it formation, however the night before the conference, an intrepid Laconia Police officer arrested Shepard after a traffic stop.
Mullarkey turned himself in.

In 2012, the prosecutor noted during sentencing the state had been aware of the possibility of a proposed piece of legislation that could lead to sentence reductions for academic achievement.

In Shepard's case, he pleaded guilty to committing five burglaries and was sentenced by Judge James Barry on March 23, 2012 to serve seven to 14 years in the N.H. State Prison with two years of the minimum suspended.

Credited with 213 days of pre-trial confinement, Shepard is eligible for release on February 17 on four of his charges and August 20, 2016 on one of his charges.

Through his attorney, Shepard has asked for a total of 300 days to be knocked off his sentence — 60 days for completing a Vocational Education Program, 60 day for completing a Family Connections Program and 180 days for earning his Associates Degree in Business while incarcerated. He is working on earning his B.A. in Business Administration.

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.