LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) has called for a feasibility study of creating a 50-75 bed residential substance abuse and detoxification facility in the county.
Taylor told his fellow commissioners when they met Wednesday morning at the Belknap County complex that such a facility would not only serve a pressing social need but could also be a money maker for the county.
He said that Strafford County has a facility similar to that which he is proposing which makes the county $1 million a year by providing services not readily available around the state.
''Right now the county jail has become a mental health hospital and drug treatment place because that's the only place people with these kinds of problems end up.'' He said that it costs the county $80 to $100 a day to keep them there and that if there was a place they could go to for treatment it would save the county money and achieve better results.
Taylor envisions a large treatment and detoxification center which would not be connected to the county jail but would be able to serve people like those in the court diversion program, as well as the general public.
He suggested that the county partner with the city of Laconia to create the facility and said that funding could come federal, state and private grants with operating costs covered by private insurance and Medicaid funds for those without insurance.
Taylor says that he is a fiscal conservative who would like to see Medicaid money go straight the states. But until that happens he says the state should take advantage of expanded Medicaid,
''We owe it to ourselves to take the money and treat these people,'' says Taylor, who says that in the long term he would like to see health care treatment controlled at the local level.
He says that the feasibility study could be conducted by current members of the county's Jail Planning Committee, which includes people such as Jaqui Abikoff of the Horizons Counseling Center and Brian Loanes, director of the Restorative Justice Program. He says that if needed, a consultant could be hired.
Taylor says that the lack of such a facility is one of the biggest barriers to being able to rehabilitate those with drug addictions, pointing out that last year there were 320 deaths in New Hampshire attributed to prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction.
''It's a huge social need. It's an epidemic which has grown and intensified,'' said Taylor, who notes that it cuts across all segments of society and poses a huge threat to American culture..
''In 2012 over 200 million prescriptions were written for opiates. Pain killers are the first step towards heroin which is where we're having so much trouble today. This is real threat to our culture where we now have an estimated 10 percent of our population who are substance abusers.''
Taylor says that there is a growing realization that the problem can't be solved with jails and that treatment at the community level is the best way to deal with substance abuse problems.
''There's a lot of awareness but very little being done. We could step up as a county and establish something which other parts of the state would want to use and would pay us for,'' he says.
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