Lakes Region readies to tackle mental health and substance abuse issues

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has begun introducing a major initiative to address the needs of those with mental health and substance abuse disorders, which was outlined to providers of physical and behavioral health and various social services at Inter-Lakes High School Tuesday night.

The initiative is in response to the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, which by expanding eligibility for Medicaid and provided 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.

In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved the state's request to fund a transforming the system for providing mental health and substance abuse services The so-called "transformation waiver" will provide $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 a continuum of care unbroken as patients pass from one provider to another.

The principal agents of the program will be seven "integrated delivery networks," or IDNs, one of which will consist of the Central and Winnipesaukeee public health networks, consisting of Belknap County, 18 towns in Grafton County and three towns in Merrimack County. 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.

Lisa Morris of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health said that the Winnipesaukee Health Council has identified access to behavioral health care, including substance abuse treatment, as a priority in the region. In January, the Community Health Services Network, LLC was formed. The network includes LRGHeathcare, Speare Memorial Hospital, Genesis Behavioral Health, Horizons Counseling Center, HealthFirst, Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, Lakes Region Community Services, Central New Hampshire Hospice and Visiting Nurse Association, Franklin Visiting Nurse Association and Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties.

"The Lakes Region is a step ahead," Morris said, explaining that the network represents the structure for the IDN.

The IDNs will pursue projects to expand the capacity for treating mental health and substance abuse, support patients transitioning from institutional to community settings and integrate physical and behavioral care by fostering collaboration between primary care physicians, behavioral health care providers and community social services.

Specific projects to serve these objectives will be chosen from a prescribed menu. For example, to expand capacity projects include supplementing existing personnel with additional staff and training, providing medically assisted therapy for substance abuse and offering treatment as an alternative to incarceration.

This year, $19.5 million, or 65 percent of the funding, will be applied to building capacity. In 2017, funding will begin to be apportioned among the IDNs according to their performance, beginning with 10 percent of all funds and rising to 25 percent before all funding will be based on outcomes in 2019 and 2020.

Gilford parent files wiretapping suit against bus company, superintendent

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — A parent who was charged with three counts of disorderly conduct after protesting the school district choice of mandatory reading material at a School Board in 2014 has filed a federal suit against the First Student Bus Company and Superintendent Kent Hemingway for allegedly violating state and federal wiretapping laws.

The suit says William Baer is the father of two children who attend Gilford High School who he claims were audiotaped while on a school bus owned by First Student which is under contract by the school district to transport students back and forth to school.

Baer said his children have been riding the same bus "#3" since 2013 and regularly engage in conversation during their rides.

He said neither child consented to being audiotaped and were unaware this was happening until one of them was summoned to the principal's office in January for a incident on the bus. During the conversation, he said the principal referred to the audiotape.

When the child referenced the student handbook, he realized it stated that all buses "shall be posted" with a sign indicating the people aboard it are being audiotaped.
The suit said Baer's students examined bus #3 as well as "a number" of other buses provided to the school district by First Student and learned that most of them did not have the required posting. They also said they had never noticed any posting in their bus since they began riding it in 2013.

In his suit, Baer noted that bus #3 has since posted the requisite warning signs.

Hemingway is being cited because of his role as the overseer of the Gilford School District.

William Baer was involved last year in a court case over his right to free speech at a school board meeting. He was arrested for disrupting the meeting, but the 4th Circuit Court decided Baer, while rude, was not breaking any laws.

Baer also later filed a federal suit against the police lieutenant who arrested him but the court determined the lieutenant was immune from suit.

First Student and Hemingway have not responded to the complaint.

Timber Hill Farm warrants fail - Gilford approves town budget, school goes to default budget

GILFORD — There were five total warrant articles that proposed to address agritourism in general in Gilford yesterday and the two submitted by Timber Hill farm went down to a resounding defeat.

Article 4 was submitted by petition and asked voters to support an amendment that would amend the current definition of agriculture to include agritourism and to included it in all zones as agriculture is allowed in all zone. The Planning Board did not recommend this article and it failed by a wide margin of 218 for it to 1,173 against it.

Article 5 was also submitted by petition and generated by the family of Andrew and Martina Howe who sought to rezone all of their farm property of nearly 240 acres from Single Family Residential to Resort Commercial – a designation that allows them by right to conduct any agritourism events in the zone with only a traditional site plan review. The Planning Board did not recommend this article and  if also failed by a wide margin of 1,016 to 171.

Article 7 was created by the Planning Board and sought to make any agritourism events subject to the town's nuisance laws. Howe and the Planning Board agreed with this and it passed by a vote of 1,145 to 228.

Article 8 was created by the Planning Board and it proposes to make agritourism allowable by special exception in all zones with the exception of the Island Residential Zone. The Planning Board recommended this warrant. It passed by a two-to-one margin of 900 voting in favor and 408 voting against it.

In addition to agritourism, a petitioned warrant article to allow the Gunstock Inn and Resort to switch from Single-Family Residential to Resort Commercial was passed by a vote of 1,012 to 353.

Warrant Article 3, also submitted by petition, sought to eliminate and churches from opening in the Limited Residential Zone which would made it consistent with the town's other three residential zones. This passed by a vote of 1,096 to 259.

On the school side, a warrant article supported 4-to-1 by the School Board sought to issue a $2.4 million bond to perform mechanical, HVAC, electrical and other upgrades to the elementary school passed by a vote of 940 to 439. It needed a three-fifths majority to pass, or 827 of the 1,374 votes cast.

The town budget of $12,015,382 was approved by a vote of 1,057 to 252.

Voters rejected the proposed School Board budget and will go forward in 2016-17 with a default budget of $25,688,824. The proposed budget was for $25,852,759.

Incumbent School Board member Jack Landow was not re-elected to office. Political newcomer Gretchen Gandini was the largest vote getter with 936 votes, while incumbent Chairman Karen Thurston retained her seat with 718 votes. Landow received 368 votes.