Opioid Crisis Forum Hosted by Londonderry Police Department

The Londonderry Police Department hosted an Opioid Addiction Forum, “Living with an Addiction or Substance Use Disorder” on Thursday, May 16.
A small crowd of about 30 people attended the forum at the Londonderry High School cafeteria, despite the opioid crisis has touched so many in the community.
Londonderry Police Lt. Mark Morrison said the department has added new tools to their toolbelt, because the old way of dealing with drugs wasn’t working. “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail,” Morrison said.
Londonderry Police have tried to be proactive in helping to address the opioid crisis locally. They have created awareness about substance abuse with practical efforts, such as their Drug Take Back Program, which is outlined on the department’s website londonderrynhpd.org. Citizens of Londonderry can drop off unused, unwanted, or expired prescription drugs, at any time, in a special collection box located at the police station. The police department will not question anyone using the bin for that purpose. 

At the forum, the Londonderry Police distributed a brochure, entitled Substance Use Intervention outlining many helpful resources. For an in depth listing of substance use resources please refer to: WWW.NHRECOVERYHUB.ORG
Over the past years, Londonderry Police have organized a Substance Use Intervention Team (SUIT) to support individuals recovering from an overdose or known to be involved with drug addiction. Presently, the Londonderry SUIT group involves Lt. Mark Morrison, Chaplain Gerry Goncalo, Officer Tara Koski and community volunteers.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, New Hampshire is among the top five states with the highest rate of opioid-involved deaths. In 2017, there were 424 drug overdose deaths involving opioids in New Hampshire. That is more than twice the average national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons. A significant increase was seen in cases involving synthetic opioids — mainly fentanyl — with a rise from 30 deaths in 2013 to 374 deaths in 2017. Overdose deaths involving heroin have declined from 98 deaths in 2014 to 28 deaths in 2017.
The Londonderry Opioid Forum was set up to provide perspective and subject matter expertise on prevention, treatment and recovery, insight into available resources and as an opportunity to meet substance abuse partners from the region.
The panel included officials from the Farnum Center, Granite Pathways and New Hampshire Healthy Families, as well as Londonderry Police Capt. Patrick Cheetham, Rachel Behrens, the mother of Nick Behrens (a Londonderry High School graduate who died of an overdose in 2017 at the age of 19) and licensed clinical social worker Jim Gamache, who is part of Londonderry’s critical intervention management team.
Gamache, a clinical researcher, said people with addictions are often people with mental illnesses which lead them to drug use. He said, “About 70 percent of the substance use disorder in patients I’ve come in contact with, meet or exceed criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.” Gamache outlined key information about addiction, including that young people who are habitual users of marijuana, tobacco or alcohol are at significantly higher risk to become opioid abusers.  
Rachel Behrens said that her son changed at a younger age when he started experimenting with marijuana and started hanging out with a different crowd. The panel agreed one main problem is a drug culture that drives addicts to continue substance abuse. Behrens pointed out that only a short time after losing her son to fentanyl, one of his best friends also died of a fentanyl overdose.
Panelists discussed the N.H. hub-and-spoke system for dealing with substance abuse and how Granite Pathways, in Manchester, is working as the hub or “doorway” for the Londonderry community, in tandem with Safe Stations, supported by Manchester Fire Stations.
Manchester Fire Chief, Dan Goonan, said,  “The hub-and-spoke system is still very new and they’re still working on building upon it.” Goonan overviewed and strongly supports the Safe Station program that has saved many lives in our area. In the program, each Manchester Fire Department (MFD) station is a designated safe environment for the individuals seeking assistance looking for treatment to start their path to recovery. 
At any time a victim of a substance misuse disorder decides or gathers up the courage to ask for help, he/she can go to any MFD station and speak to the Firefighters on duty. Goonan said, “If there is cause for concern that there is something else medically wrong with the patient, transportation to an appropriate level medical facility will be arranged for and provided by Manchester’s contracted 911 service AMR.”
Anyone in the community who is challenged by substance abuse issues can present themselves at a Manchester Fire station or at the Granite Pathways Doorway in Manchester. They can also call for services by dialing 211. As Londonderry Police Capt. Patrick Cheetham pointed out at the forum, “The goal is Prevention, Prevention, Prevention.”

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