Learning about Opiates and their Impact on the Hudson Community

August 4, 2017

 

by Len Lathrop

Folks attending the informational forum held on Saturday at St. Kathryn’s Church by the military veterans group, learn some hard and cold facts about opiate abuse in both the town of Hudson and the state of New Hampshire.

A panel of folks who deal with the issues spoke of their roles, and what they are seeing in the streets:  Lieutenant John Encarnacao, the head of the New Hampshire State Police Narcotics Division; Detective Sergeant Tom Scotti from Hudson Police Department; Captain Sean Mamone from Hudson Fire Department; Ryan Fowler from Granite Pathways Regional Access Point Services; and Lisa Vasquez, Greater Nashua Substance misuse prevention coordinator.

Lieutenant Encarnacao introduced himself; he has been the head of the narcotics division for five years, while being in law enforcement for 24 years.  He explained the changes he has seen when pills were in the forefront three to five years ago, now has been replaced with heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil today.  He continued that the effects on the family and society are hard to think about day today.  Many of today’s dealers have become addicts themselves; the state police are seeing more and more dealers that are selling to keep themselves with drugs.  Gone are the dealers who are doing it just for money.  He cautioned that they are still there, but the middle-level dealers are mostly full-blown addicts.

The lieutenant was very positive in telling the group the drugs in New Hampshire come from Lawrence, Mass., and how easily it is transported into southern New Hampshire towns.

With a poster, Lieutenant Encarnacao provided a visual comparison of the three drugs providing the same effect: heroin with a full vial, fentanyl with a partially filled vial and the third one with just one grain of carfentanil.

Tom Scotti, who has been in law enforcement for 14 years, has worked his way through the ranks of the Hudson Police Department and currently serves as a detective sergeant.  He presented historical number of drug misuse in Hudson.   In 2012 and 2013, the numbers were in the 20s, while, in 2016, it climbed to 53, and now, into 2017, it is already past the 50 mark.  Sadly, deaths continue to rise as, in 2016, there were seven, and, so far in 2017, the number stands at eight.

Scotti mentioned that dealing with the new drugs on the street is even harder as many of the combinations can be absorbed transdermally, and the officers have to take many more precautions.

Burglaries have gone down from 67 to 70 in 2013 and 2014 to this year being only nine as of July first.  Yet, fraud cases are on the rise.

The sergeant mentioned the work that the Hudson Police Department does with the federal task force, including undercover officers with both the DEA and FBI who bring assistance to the town when needed.  Scotti mentioned that it is necessary to take a three-prong approach to overcome the drug problem:  prevention, treatment and education.

Sergeant Scotti mentioned the work with the Nashua Drug Court Program where those misusing drugs can work with the court system to get treatment and monitoring to become and stay drug free and avoid incarceration.

Captain Sean Mamone of the Hudson Fire Department, while stating that they are seeing the same things that both Lieutenant Encarnacao and Sergeant Scotti have talked about, had some numbers about how many times Narcan has been used in Hudson.  As of last week, July 18, there have been 28 calls for overdoses:  10 were heroin-related drugs, 10 were for prescription-related drugs, and the other eight were unknown.  Narcan was used 17 times so far in 2017 with one patient who refused to be transported to the hospital.  Mamone mentioned that it is happening in every corner of Hudson.

The captain also spoke about the extra protection that firefighters are taking including masking up.

After the next speaker was introduced by Kelly Fraser, program coordinator for the church, he started with, “Hi, I am Ryan Fowler and I am in recovery since Dec. 21, 2014.  I was a heavy opiate addict for 10 years and had Narcan used to save by life “more than three times.  I have seen what it looks like, now I work for this fantastic agency that has contacts and licenses to help access resources for services.”

Fowler went on to say that, in December 2014, he got into treatment in an adult felony program and today he is looking at going to college.

He mentioned that you can’t arrest your way out of this problem; many users come from adverse family situations and/or mental health issues.  At the end of the day, a show of love and compassion can start the process to recovery.  Fowler mentioned that things started to change when his parents let him back into their house.

Today Ryan works as a RAPS specialist for Granite Pathways, a regional Access Point Service, then people want to change they are there to find what treatment services are need and where they can be obtained.  Granite Pathways also operates Safe Harbor Recovery Center, Seacoast Pathways, Regional Access Point Services and family support groups.

The definition on the RAPS business card appears as “Client-Centered Care Coordination for Substance Use Disorders.”

The last member of the panel to speak was Lisa Vasquez, Greater Nashua Substance misuse prevention coordinator.  She described her focus is in prevention, so that people don’t start using.  Her statement was, if we have a protection- ready community that can offer social and emotional learning, it becomes a recovery-ready community.

She emphasized that everyone has a place in prevention and recovery.

Fraser opened the floor to questions.  The first asked was what could be done with old prescriptions and Sergeant Scotti advised that there was a box (like a mail box) in the lobby of the police station where pills could be put in (no liquids or needles).  Once they are dropped in, there is no way to get them out until the police take them out and have them burned.  He also explained that twice a year there is a collection under police supervision.

The next question asked was if Congress needed to enact tougher laws.  Lt. Encarnacao explained the shift they are seeing where the dealers are users and addicts themselves who need treatment.  Sergeant Scotti spoke of the new laws in New Hampshire where if there is a death from an overdose the dealer can be charged with homicide.

As the questions trended toward less drug issue problems, Scotti said one of the biggest things that a citizen can do is, if by chance you see something, that you report it to the police.

If you or someone you know is affected by a substance use disorder, call the NH Statewide Addiction Crisis Line to be connected with Regional Access Point Services 1-844-711-HELP (4357).