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Drug Court Program Expanded



Friday, November 13, 2015
North Haverhill — An area nonprofit agency that provides financial support to Grafton County Drug Court participants soon will reach beyond county lines and offer services throughout the state.

The Friends of Grafton Country Drug Court will evolve into the Friends of New Hampshire Drug Courts, with the same mission of raising money toward incentives, education and training.

“We are building upon our successful Grafton County Friends model and making it a statewide initiative,” Ed Rajsteter, president of Friends of New Hampshire Drug Courts, said in a news release this week.

New Hampshire drug courts offer nonviolent substance abuse offenders the opportunity to enter a rehabilitation program in lieu of jail time. To help participants succeed while in the drug court program, Grafton County launched the nonprofit support group in 2009.

The money raised goes toward rewards, such as gift cards and gym memberships, to hand out to participants for their compliance in the drug court program. The funding also has paid for graduation ceremonies and Christmas parties for the participants and their families, Rajsteter said.

New Hampshire has six county drug court programs — Grafton, Strafford, Cheshire, Belknap, Hillsborough and Rockingham.

Instead of setting up a separate group for each county, it made more sense to form one statewide nonprofit, Grafton County Drug Court founder Bob Gasser said.

“It really enhances the opportunity for the individual to grow in the program, and it is supportive of their efforts to stay clean,” said Gasser, who also sits on the friend’s board.

In addition, he said, “It adds the ability of the drug court to do things that it could not ordinarily do.”

For example, the money raised can also provide assistance to participants in the form of a first month’s rent payment or school books, money that would later be repaid.

New Hampshire drug court programs, which have all been established within the past decade, have significantly cut down on the rate at which offenders are going back to jail for similar crimes.

The push for the statewide program comes at a time when New Hampshire is facing a growing heroin and drug crisis.

“The heroin and substance abuse crisis is the most pressing public health and safety challenge facing our state, an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ moment that requires us all to work together,” Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement. “Expanding drug courts is a critical part of a comprehensive approach to combat this crisis, and I applaud the Friends of New Hampshire Drug Courts and their commitment to pertaining with state and local governments to support drug courts.”

A new board of directors will be created for the state-wide group. A goal is to have representation from each county.

The group is still awaiting approval from the state Attorney General’s Office and the Treasury department. Once approved, which could come as early as this month, the group will accept donations for all drug court programs, Gasser said.

The money raised by the group will not support the day-to-day drug court operations. Each drug court is funded differently. For example, the Grafton County Drug Court is funded through the county budget, while the Cheshire County program is funded by federal grants.

Grafton County Commissioner Chairman Mike Cryans said the friend’s group drafted by volunteers in his county has set up a sturdy foundation for a statewide program.

“I think it is a very innovative and creative program that has reached out and helped a lot of people,” said Cryans, the former executive director of Headrest. “Now, it will help everyone through.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.