Heroin is currently ravaging northeast region of the United States, and while its effects are being felt elsewhere as well, states in New England are being particularly hard hit by a growing epidemic of heroin use and overdoses. This problem caused Vermont’s governor to recently devout his entire state of the union address to the heroin problem. Now, New Hampshire has held a so-called “heroin summit,” in Portsmouth to try to come up with some ways to stem the tide of this disease that is impacting so many lives in the area.
The summit was gathered primarily to identify ways that addicts could be helped, not necessarily to come up with better ways of policing the flow of drugs or of better ways to punish users. As a matter of fact, even the police are taking an uncharacteristic view towards the drug problem, as the Department Chief of the Portsmouth Police Force Corey MacDonald said that the general feeling towards heroin users is that they are persons who the police “can’t scare straight. They have a chemical dependency.”
The brainstorming session was held at the local police department but included representatives from the mental health community, hospitals in the area and even a judge. One of the most important measures that has been put into motion is the establishment of a day where people can come for help and to have questions answered on a no questions asked basis.
These days will not be held at a police station, but rather somewhere where representatives from all the different organizations that have a vested interest in this problem can become involved. The police will be on hand but reports have indicated that the police will allow heroin users to come and turn in their drugs without any legal action taking place.
MacDonald added that these days are directed towards being times when “people can come in and possibly get education, some treatment, get directed, put in the right direction.” He also added that it would be a time when they would really reach out to families in New Hampshire so that they could come to find out what kinds of resources they have available to them.
Justin Looser, the Behavioral Health Director at Portsmouth Hospital said that from a hospital perspective he sees these people all of the time. He also added that users, “need treatment and they need help, and less law enforcement and more of a positive framework to this.”
New Hampshire and Vermont may be moving towards leaner penalties on users of heroin but that means they will only be focusing more time and resources on cracking down on dealers and suppliers. Portsmouth has been hit especially hard by heroin overdoses since January 1st of this year. Within 24 hours medics responded to four separate overdoses, one of them fatal. The woman who called 911 in the fatality case, was found dead with drugs at her side a few weeks later, all contributing to the growing need for a summit of this kind in New Hampshire.
By Nick Manai