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Substance abuse program not available to all who need it at county jail

LACONIA — Although the courts recommend that as many as nine of 10 inmates at the Belknap County Jail undergo treatment for substance abuse, the capacity of the Department of Corrections to provide help has shrunk.

Superintendent Dan Ward said that the county contracts with Horizons Counseling Center, Inc. of Gilford, which offers the ADAPT (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment) program. "We have capacity and funding for 12 places," he said, "and the program is always full with a waiting list."

Jacqui Abikoff, executive director of Horizons, said that the program began in 1991 with a federal grant administered by the New Hampshire Department of Justice. Then, she explained, "we worked in cohorts of 24. Everyone started the 12-week program at the same time and finished together."

However, since the federal funding was reduced abut 10 years ago, the capacity of the program has been halved and its structure has been changed. Abikoff said that now inmates are required to complete the 12 modules of the program, but in no particular order. For example, an inmate might being with the sixth week of the program and finish with the fifth week.

Abikoff stressed that the county does not contribute to the cost of programming, which is defrayed primarily by federal funds. At the same time, she said that Horizons contracts with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Services (DHHS) to provide substance abuse treatment for indigents and is able to apportion some personnel costs incurred at the jail to that contract. "Inmates meet the standard of indigence," she remarked.

The federal funding not only limits not only the capacity but also the scope of programming. Abikoff said that funds can only be applied to services for sentenced inmates, emphasizing that they are only assessed by qualified clinicians after being sentenced. She said that the recommendation that an inmate be counseled or treated is initially a bargain struck between the prosecuting and defense attorneys and sanctioned by the judge.

"The court may recommend either the ADAPT program or a residential program, but neither may be appropriate for the individual inmate," Abikoff said. Although their have been efforts to enable clinicians to assess inmates prior to sentencing, she said that the resources required are not available.

Furthermore, Abikoff noted that since funding is restricted to sentenced inmates who are not assessed before sentencing, services cannot be provided to those incarcerated pending trial. An inmate may spend months incarcerated before receiving a one year sentence, then find that with time-served there is insufficient time remaining on the sentence to complete the treatment program. By assessing inmates pending trial, Abikoff said that their condition, together with other risk factors, could be determined, enabling some to be released under close supervision to undergo treatment, which would ease the upward pressure on the jail population.

Underlining the the value of substance abuse programs, Abikoff said that more than half the inmates who complete the ADAPT program continue with counseling and treatment following their release.

"It works," she said, adding that unfortunately while New Hampshire ranks among the top states in the incidence of substance, it ranks among the bottom 10 states in the capacity for treatment.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 July 2014 12:27

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Selectmen agree Belmont should have its own police dog

BELMONT — After hearing a presentation from Master Patrol Officer Evan Boulanger about the town's need for a K-9 police dog, selectmen last evening unanimously agreed to the proposal.

The money, about $16,000, would come from an $18,000 pool of drug forfeiture money that must be spent on drug intervention work.

Boulanger, who would be the dog's handler, said his research indicted that Castle's K-9, Inc. of Pennsylvania would provide an already trained and socialized dog that could be put into service for Belmont within about three to four months.

Chief Mark Lewandoski said he and Boulanger would go to Pennsylvania and select the dog they believe will fit in best with Belmont. Boulanger said he would house the dog and a local veterinarian has said he would donate the medical care and vaccinations the dog would need. A local vendor said he would provide food for the K-9.

Boulanger said other than the tracking and drug intervention work a K-9 would bring to Belmont, he expects the dog to be a community friendly animal that would be prominent in the town's schools and at town sponsored events.

In 2010 and in 2011 Belmont called for and received K-9 assistance 40 times each year with the majority of those assists coming from Laconia and Gilford. In 2012 and 2013, Belmont has used the dogs of neighboring communities but because of on-going K-9 training in Laconia and Gilford and the recent retirement of Gilford's K-9 Agbar, there aren't as many working K-9s in the immediate area as there were a few years ago.

During a few recent incidents, Lewandoski said the N.H. State Police and neighboring communities were willing to help but the wait time for a dog was over an hour.

In one case that was eventually solved, a burglar had attempted to break into an occupied home but was frightened off by the home owner and responding police. Although police looked for the would-be burglar, he had fled into the woods and had hidden. Police later learned that he had been text messaging a friend and saying the police were very near him but they couldn't find him in the dark. Police also learned he was responsible for other burglaries in the same neighborhood.
A K-9, they said, would have found the man and prevented additional burglaries.

Initially, Selectman Chair Ruth Mooney was skeptical. She said she feared that the department wouldn't be able to afford to the program in the upcoming years and it would only be a matter of time before the police came to selectmen looking for money for the K-9 program or an extra officer to compensate for Boulanger.

Lewandoski assured her that wouldn't happen. Many of the 35 residents in the room who came to support the Police Department's request said they would hold fund-raisers to help offset any future costs.

Selectman Ron Cormier said if it were up to him, he would support including the K-9 in the annual police budget but since the department had already done the work to use drug forfeiture money to pay for the program he would vote to support it immediately.

Selectman Jon Pike agreed with Cormier and Mooney and voted in the affirmative to make the decision unanimous.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 July 2014 12:09

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John Stevens named trustee of N.H. Community College System

GILFORD — John Stevens, former commanding officer with the New Hampshire State Police who is now statewide interoperability coordinator with the New Hampshire Department of Safety, has been appointed to the Board of Trustees of the New Hampshire Community College System.

Stevens earned his bachelor's degree in law enforcement from the University of New Haven and master's degree in public administration from Golden Gate University. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and has completely a variety of programs in law enforcement at different institutions. Stevens has taught as an adjunct professor at the College of Lifelong Learning.

Stevens will represent the law enforcement community on the Board of Trustees.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 July 2014 01:03

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Tilton store manager beaten & robbed

TILTON — Police are continuing to investigate what they are calling the brutal beating of a female store manager Sunday night at the West Main Shopping Plaza.

Chief Robert Cormier said the victim was walking out of the Dollar Tree store at 8:21 p.m. when she was attacked by a male who was dressed in black and wearing a mask. The bandit then fled with the night deposit bag.

"From what we're learning, he hit her before she landed on the ground and continued to hit her while she was on the ground," Cormier said.

He said the victim was treated and released last night but is still undergoing tests to determine the extent of her injuries.

"As far as we're concerned, this is a first-degree assault on a victim who was not resisting," Cormier said.

Cormier said the assailant left the scene in a tan or gold colored SUV and headed toward Franklin.

He said police thing the robbery and subsequent assault was "planned to some degree."

Police are asking that anyone who was near the Tilton-Franklin line at around 8:30 p.m. Sunday or who has any information is asked to contact the Tilton Police at 286-4442 or the Crime Tip Line at 1-855-286-6565.

Last Updated on Monday, 07 July 2014 11:51

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