State Grants to Help Police Address Heroin Crisis

As police departments throughout New Hampshire grapple with the heroin and opioid crisis, the State is stepping up its support with a commitment to overtime funding for State Police in Manchester and at the State Police Forensic Laboratory.

“That would be great if the State lab could get better turnover, especially for DNA results, fingerprints, and foot imprints,” Londonderry Det. Chris Olson said. “Right now we’re looking at a six- to eight-month backlog. If we don’t have enough evidence to arrest someone, they could disappear in that time it takes to wait for the results.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan announced last week that the two grants – a $90,000 grant to allow State Police to provide more than 1,200 additional hours of manpower to assist local department’s initiatives, and a $60,000 grant to reduce growing case backlog at the State lab by providing the funding needed to analyze an additional 60 to 80 cases per month – will build on the State Police’s ongoing efforts to assist local communities in combating the opioid crisis.

According to Olson, of the theft-related charges the Department has been handling of late, upwards of 75 percent are heroin- and opioid-fueled.

“What we’re finding is when we arrest a heroin user, at first they aren’t happy with us, or with being taken away from their addiction; but, a while later, when we go back to interview them, they’ll thank us, saying, ‘if you didn’t arrest me for that, I’d be dead right now.'”

Additionally, Olson noted better turnover with toxicology reports will help the Department to have a better sense of overdose-related deaths and when accidents are the cause of a driver who was under the influence of heroin or opioids.

“This can help bring closure to families, as well, if a loved one dies and we don’t know why,” he said.

In the past year, overdose-related deaths in Londonderry and throughout the State have increased at an alarming rate.

“I would say we have responded to more heroin overdose deaths in the past two months than we did last year,” Olson said. “Last year, we were going to maybe one to two overdose-related calls per month. Now, we’re responding to two to four each week, if not more. There is no age range for this, heroin doesn’t discriminate.”

“The heroin and substance abuse crisis is the most pressing public health and safety challenge facing our state, and we must all work together, every single day, on a comprehensive approach to combat this crisis,” Hassan said. “While we focus on strengthening prevention, treatment and recovery, we must also do everything that we can to support law enforcement and other first responders on the front lines, and these grants will help us do just that.”

The New Hampshire Department of Justice awarded the grants to the Department of Safety with federal funds received from the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program.

“These grants are a small but significant step as we work to strengthen our comprehensive approach to combating the heroin and opioid crisis,” Hassan said. “While these grants to strengthen our law enforcement response are important, we all agree that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. We must continue to build on a comprehensive approach and strengthen our prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.”

In addition to the two grants, New Hampshire lawmakers have included in the compromise $11.3 million State budget two additional detectives for the State drug enforcement unit, and an additional criminalist to process cases in the State lab.

The legislature has also committed as part of the compromise budget to introduce legislation reauthorizing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, which provides coverage for substance abuse services to thousands of residents in the State.

Olson said the Department is discussing internally a number of initiatives to address the heroin crisis in Londonderry that they are hoping to roll out in the near future.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter