Shaker superintendent hits ground running

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — It's been a three-day whirlwind for new Shaker Regional Shaker Superintendent Michael Tursi, who officially took over the helm on Friday.

From meeting all of the building principals, to getting to know the employees in the SAU office to learning what plans are already in place, he said he spent most of his time so far just learning who is who and where things are.

"I just introduce myself to everyone I see," he said, identifying that as his best way of learning about his new district.

"I like people," is what Tursi said at a meet-and-greet in the Belmont High School cafeteria this spring shortly after he was named interim superintendent.

He said he likes to be out and about in his school district and while people can rarely find him at his desk, he said he's never more than a phone call away.

Tursi also said that he wants to establish a working relationship with the town's individual boards of selectmen and their teams of administrators as well as community leaders.

"We are all part of the same team," he said. "These are the people in the district with knowledge and who are committed to making their towns and this school district work."

One of the things that excite him the most is student initiative, something he has heard is in abundance at the Shaker Regional School District.

Over the summer, Tursi said he is digesting local statistics, evaluating and getting to know Shaker's individual projects, and getting to meet other area superintendents and learn more about the Huot Technical Center.

"I am a big supporter of technical education," he said. "I'm excited to be here."

07-07 Michael Tursi

Superintendent Michael Tursi poses next to the sign that welcomes people to the Shaker Regional School District Office. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

Tilton man indicted in Molatov cocktail case

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A man who allegedly used a Molatov cocktail to damage a woman's car while it was parked outside of a friend's house in Belmont in February has been indicted by a Belknap County grand jury.

Shawn McKenney, 26, of or formerly of 377 W. Main St. in Tilton faces four charges, including making a Molatov cocktail – a felony – and throwing it at a car, two misdemeanor counts of arson and one Class A misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief.

Police and affidavits at the time said McKenney drove by the house and saw a car belonging to a woman he had been involved with. Police said that he went to a nearby Circle K gas station, bought some gas, and rummaged around for a glass bottle and a rag.

He is alleged to have returned to the home and thrown the device out of the window. The intended victim was in the home and was unharmed. Fire officials quickly extinguished the fire.

Police said witnesses noticed a driver discard a burning gasoline container. Tilton Police noticed McKenney's car and an officer noticed a fresh burn mark on an interior door panel. Affidavits said his clothes showed signs of recent exposure to fire.

After an interview, Belmont police were able to secure a warrant for his arrest.

McKenney initially appeared in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on Feb. 23 and was ordered held on $7,000 cash bail.

Belknap County Corrections officials said he posted bail on May 10.

McKenney is scheduled to be arraigned on the felony charge of using a Molatov cocktail later this week in the Belknap County Superior Court.

Commissioners reaffirm decision to join health services network

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Two of the three Belknap County Commissioners expressed continued support Wednesday morning for their decision to become an affiliate member of the Community Health Services Network and said that the services the networks plans to provide will benefit the county by making it easier for inmates at the County House Correction with drug problems to receive treatment in a community setting rather than while incarcerated.
Community Health Services Network LLC is an umbrella organization formed to transform the state's system for providing mental health and substance abuse services by integrating behavioral and physical health care.
In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved the state's request to fund transforming the system for providing mental health and substance abuse services. The so-called "transformation waiver" provides $150 million over five years to apply toward offering integrated physical and behavioral health care, expanding capacity to address emergent behavioral health issues, and ensuring an unbroken continuum of care as patients pass from one provider to another.
The commission's decision to participate had been questioned by five members of the County Delegation, who in a June 11 letter suggested that becoming an affiliate member would result in the county assuming obligations which would require an appropriation, something only the delegation can approve.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that there was no financial responsibility involved in being an affiliate member. "It 's not costing us a penny," said Taylor, who said that it is important that the county be represented in the discussion of how health care services will be delivered. He was supported by Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton).
Only one of the legislators who signed the letter, Rep. Mike Sylvia of Belmont, was present when the commission met Wednesday morning and heard an explanation from Henry Lipman, senior vice president at Lakes Region General Hospital, on how the health services network was set up and intends to function.
The initiative is in response to the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, which by expanding eligibility for Medicaid and providing benefits for substance abuse has increased demand for services in short supply. Currently, 92 percent of adults who require treatment for alcohol abuse and 84 percent of adults who require treatment for drug abuse go without it. At the same time, two of every three people with mental illness admitted to the New Hampshire Hospital spend more than one day waiting in an emergency room until a bed becomes available.
Lipman said the network's goal is to "bend the cost curve" by developing local methods to deal with the drug abuse and mental health problems and has been in the works since 2011. Lipman said that the the principal agents of the program will be seven "integrated delivery networks," or IDNs, one of which will consist of the Central and Winnipesaukee public health networks, consisting of Belknap County, 18 towns in Grafton County and three towns in Merrimack County. Altogether, some 16,000 people in the network are enrolled in Medicaid, 12,000 of them in the Winnipesaukee network.
The IDNs will organize and coordinate the providers within the network as well as receive and distribute funding to them. The partners in the networks must include primary care physicians, substance abuse providers, hospitals, community mental health centers, community and rural health centers, community organizations providing social services and county nursing and correctional facilities.
Rep. Sylvia wanted to know if the system was designed in response to Medicaid expansion and said its origin was in traditional Medicaid. The recent expansion added 50,000 statewide and changes were made to allow the 100,000 on traditional Medicaid to have the same access to substance abuse programs as those on expanded Medicaid.
He said that about 13 percent of the people in the Central and Winnipesaukee network are eligible for Medicaid, which is higher than the state average.
Sylvia criticized the program, saying that providing substance abuse coverage for those below the age at which they would qualify for Medicaid provides assistance to those who ''lack personal responsibility" and could instead be working and supporting themselves.
Taylor pointed out that the county is one of the largest providers of mental health and substance abuse services and that a system in which inmates of the county jail could receive services in a community setting would help reduce the county's costs.
Lipman pointed out that the number of people in the area eligible for Medicare will soon be around 16 to 17 percent and is expected to increase to 30 to 35 percent of the area's population by 2030.
Taylor said the county already pays $6 million a year over and above the costs of the Belknap County Nursing Home in order to place Medicaid-eligible people in private nursing homes. He said innovative ways to allow people to remain in their own homes will have to be developed to "deal with the senior care problem before it gets to be a crisis."