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Claremont Hosts Drug Abuse Forum

Claremont — On Tuesday, about 70 people from different agencies and professions attended a community forum to address drug abuse, a stark difference from several years ago when Claremont Police Chief Alex Scott attended a similar forum and remembered less than 20 people in attendance.

The larger attendance signified the growing concern across the state on the impact of increased heroin and prescription drug abuse. It also revealed that it is no longer an issue for law enforcement alone.

“We (police) are not in this alone,” Scott told his audience at the Common Man Restaurant. “We can all work on this together.”

That was the overarching message Tuesday from the cross section of professionals that included the medical field, government, business, non-profits and those working in substance abuse programs: the problem is community-wide and so is the solution.

“We are in the middle of a crisis but we are also in the middle of an incredible opportunity for communities to make a difference,” said Tym Rourke, who chairs the governor’s commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention.

Rourke praised the prescription monitoring program that was signed into law by former Gov. John Lynch in 2012.

The law requires pharmacists to report data when dispensing controlled drugs and that data will be available electronically to physicians prescribing controlled drugs to prevent doctor shopping (the practice of some patients “shopping” for different doctors to prescribe opiates).

He also said the recently approved health protection program will provide needed treatment for roughly 50,000 state residents who cannot afford it.

Scott’s presentation at the beginning of the four-hour session included alarming statistics showing a correlation between the rise in crimes such as robbery and burglary to an increase in drug arrests.

“Ninety-percent of the time, robberies and burglaries are done to fuel drug addictions,” Scott said.

A good portion of the forum was “breakout sessions” where attendees divided into small groups and discussed ideas for attacking the drug abuse problem from different perspectives.

Some of the propsed ideas were: increased communication among law enforcement, the medical community and agencies such as those dealing with substance abuse and mental health; empowering people to take responsibility to make the right choices; promote programs that have shown success; and better long-term support systems for those who successfully stop their drug abuse.

Lt. Dennis O’Sullivan with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department said the forum was a good start and he agreed that involving the entire community is the best approach.

Despite the grim statistics showing New Hampshire has the highest per capita drug addiction rate in the country and is 49th in the nation for access to treatment Chief Scott said staying involved is critical.

“Stay active and involved in the solution and we can have the same impact on opiate and heroin use that we had on drunk driving.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.