LACONIA — Gov. Maggie Hassan told a group of high school students yesterday that the state has received a grant for a prescription drug monitoring program that was passed into law two years ago but never funded by the Legislature.
Hassan said she is working with other New England governors to create a program that will allow individual states to share the information in a regional effort to stop "doctor shopping."
She also said there is a need for more mental health services, and with the Medicaid expansion, more people, including young people, could have access to mental health services before they turn to drugs to make them feel better.
"This is a full-community challenge, and it will take a full community to address it," Hassan said.
Hassan made her comments as the guest of honor at a round table discussion hosted at the Huot Technical Center yesterday attended by a panel of local anti-drug and mental health advocates from Laconia and Franklin.
Hassan also spoke briefly about spice or synthetic cannibinoids.
In August, she declared a state of emergency after 41 people in Manchester suffered "serious medical reactions," half of them requiring treatment in hospitals, from using spice.
Prior to the discussion, students had prepared a number of questions for the panel, including one student who wanted to know where, other than the public library, older teens could go and "hang out" in a drug-free environment.
Police Chief Chris Adams fielded that one by telling them that there is a new room at the Boys and Girl's Club on North Main Street that has activities for older students like ping-pong, pool and television. He noted that recently the older teens have been one of the target groups for the club.
"We lost the teen population, and we really want to get it back," he said.
Student Sophia Joyal told Hassan about Freedom Found – an ad hoc group of students who are not necessarily members of one of the many cliques at school - who meet regularly for outings, who stand up to bullying, and who help out some of the grass roots programs like Stand Up Laconia.
Hassan replied that Freedom Found was a "great name" for an organization. "Democracy is when people take actions," she said, adding that New Hampshire is a state that cherishes its freedoms.
She told the students and their adviser, guidance councilor Phil Reed, that their model is one that other communities and the state should follow.
"We're always looking for the best practices that don't cost a lot of money," Hassan said.
Also joining Hassan, were two parents who lost their children to drug overdoses. She assured them that the funds for the N.H. Drug Task Force will be included in her budget.
Hassan also had a personal message for the students. She said she hears a lot of casual discussion between young people about drugs, but that the discussion isn't a causal topic.
"(Drug abuse) is a serious public health and public safety issue," she said. "It strains families, hurts productivity, and undermines safety."
Joining Hassan were state Sen. Andrew Hosmer, a representative from the Department of Corrections, Franklin City Manager Elizabeth Dragon, Clare Persson from Stand Up Laconia, and representatives from various local health and mental health agencies including the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health and mental health agency Genesis.