Archive for September, 2016

thNow that the final report of the Keene Drug Addiction Solutions Task Force has been made public, I urge that action be taken on its recommendations. We do not want this report to languish on a shelf gathering dust as has happened to so many other data-driven recommendations on how to deal effectively with the addiction issue facing our communities.

The report’s highest impact recommendations were:
● Support legislation for increased treatment, prevention, and recovery resources
● Support intervention and prevention efforts earlier with youth
● Increase access to detox facilities
● Increase resources for treatment
● Improve systems for resource allocation
● Support a continuum of care

This task force was comprised of law enforcement, city, county and school officials and highly skilled experts in the field of drug addiction. We came together to share ideas and collaborate with one another in our community’s struggle with this insidious disease.

The $64,000 question is, “why do people self-medicate themselves in such large and increasing numbers, and what can society do about it?” The causes and solutions are very common-sense and well within our reach if we listen to the experts and follow through with the recommendations in the Report.

But to do so means moving beyond the status-quo. Elected officials at all levels of government need to go beyond politically safe, stigma-driven policies and rethink their spending priorities – especially as they relate to the so-called “War On Drugs.” Businesses must rethink their employee policies by adopting sensible addiction treatment and recovery strategies.

It is not just people in positions of influence that have the power to address this illness. We all have a role to play in helping to stem this serious and growing problem in our communities and among our friends and family members. If you know someone with an addiction, see if there is anything you can do to help. We all have to rethink the prevalent attitude that addiction is a crime instead of an illness.

One example of the kind of thinking that must change is that local methadone clinics draw “bad” elements into the area. Some people won’t admit that such clinics are treating people from our own communities much more than any outsiders.. If we hope to effectively address addiction, we must stop sweeping the facts under the rug.

The good news coming out of this Report is that collaboration has already started to get meaningful results. And, now that the Task Force’s job is done, its members along with other community members and elected officials are likely to continue a closer communicative relationship with one another.

I give huge kudos to Sheriff Eli Rivera, Keene Police Chief Brian Costa, and those involved in the Cheshire County drug court system for recognizing that there are causal reasons for addiction that go beyond criminal intent, and for instituting policies to process cases with an eye toward recovery instead of incarceration. Let’s continue to redirect funding from areas with marginal success to those that data-driven studies say are more likely to yield results.

In conclusion, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of changing the way our government, business and neighbors address addiction. The same old methodology is a proven failure. We can’t continue to pound our thumbs and keep expecting it not to hurt.

With hope,

Terry M. Clark
Co-chair, Ad Hoc Addiction Solutions Task Force
14 Barrett Ave.
Keene, NH

 

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mnh-signThe Cheshire County legislation delegation’s executive committee voted 9-3 this morning to endorse the so-called A2 plan that would renovate and expand the Maplewood nursing facility in Westmoreland. The issue goes to the full delegation meeting on Monday, October 17th.

In supporting his motion, Rep. Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland) cited popularity of the current site over a new facility in Keene by staff, residents and their families, the overall cost of the two proposals, and the fate of the current building if it were to be abandoned.

What to do with the current Maplewood site loomed large among other members as well, since learning last week that the Pennsylvania-based Caron Foundation was not interested in housing a drug rehabilitation treatment facility there. Adding focus, Rep. Frank Sterling (R-Rindge) reminded members of the still-vacant county jail which was abandoned when the county jail was moved to Keene.

In June, after nearly two years of meetings, consultations and reports, a county delegation subcommittee made two recommendations to determine the fate of the Maplewood Nursing Home.

The original proposal to upgrade the facility was made in 2008 to address structural problems, leaky roofs, clogged pipes and electrical problems in the 150-bed Maplewood facility. This morning’s recommendation from the executive committee would keep the facility in Westmoreland, and add a new wing, as opposed to building new facilities in Keene.

Backers of option B2, the “Neighborhood Design”, first proposed by Sullivan lawyer John Hoffman several years ago, cite the benefits of being centrally-located in Keene. Rep. Timothy Robertson, (D-Keene), said the nursing home should be closest to the population center of the county. Others have said that Keene offers other benefits like it’s proximity to other activities and services.

County Commissioner Stillman Rogers said after the vote that it’s not likely that a final decision could be acted upon this year because funds and time are needed to “get our ducks in line.”

Something that hasn’t gotten a lot of traction, though, is the impact of moving the facility on the Keene tax base.

Currently, as is the nature of being a county seat, Keene is home to hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-exempt property – churches, non-profits and government facilities – which has the effect of increasing the tax burden on residential homeowners. This would be on top of the millions of dollars the city pays annually to maintain infrastructure and police services that are used by county residents every day.

Even with the 5-6 year new-market tax credit scheme, moving the nursing home to Keene would eventually add to that burden by further decreasing the city’s tax base.

I don’t know how the full delegation will vote in October, but if the final decision is made in favor of moving the facility to Keene, it should be followed by serious discussion of Keene’s property tax contribution to the county budget.