Raymond Coalition For Youth News

Raymond Coalition for Youth Hosts Prevention Summit 2015
By Penny Williams   10-20-15

The current heroin crisis in New Hampshire and the impact community efforts can have on that crisis dominated the third annual Raymond Coalition for Youth Prevention Summit, held at Candia Woods Golf Links on Friday morning, Oct. 16, with more than 100 community and state representatives attending.

The Raymond Coalition for Youth is dedicated to working with the community to fight drug abuse and addiction and to reduce suicide risk.

Speakers at the Summit offered disturbing statistics on the growing heroin and drug abuse crisis in the state, especially the escalating number of drug-related deaths.

Governor Maggie Hassan, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, State Police Col. Robert Quinn and others spoke about New Hampshire drug use and about some of the things that are being done to counteract it. The speakers said New Hampshire ranked No. 1 for alcohol use and binge drinking, and fourth highest for marijuana use among for young adults.

Hassan called the issue "the most serious challenge facing New Hampshire." She said the state is moving to strengthen prevention efforts, not only in communities but through the education system. However, she said more needs to be done to increase recovery and treatment opportunities because the epidemic is undermining community safety, harming workplace productivity and straining families.

She said state and local communities need to be working together at every level, every day, because "we are in the middle of a real battle, but if we work together to do the hard things, we can stem the tide and reverse it."

Hassan said funding has been provided to the Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Prevention, additional officers have been added to the State Police for work in this area and additional funds have been given to the State Police to assist local law enforcement efforts. She noted the crisis has greatly increased the casework at the state drug lab and help has been added there to address the matter as well.

The Governor called for the reauthorization of the Medicaid expansion act by the legislature, and noted the state is addressing the issue of over-prescribing pain medication. Heroin addiction doesn't begin with heroin in most cases, she explained, it typically begins when someone takes pain medication for an injury and moves to other prescription drugs and then to the street, where heroin and fentenal-laced heroin come into play.

Ayotte called the current situation "a public health epidemic" and said a key component of prevention is reaching youth at an early age and providing them with information on drugs and alcohol and the potential impact substance abuse can have on their lives, and the tools needed to fight substance abuse.

She said New Hampshire had more than 300 substance abuse deaths last year and is on track for even more this year. And she noted prescription drugs are the second most commonly abused drugs by young people.

Ayotte said she is cosponsoring the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015, which provides grant funding to address prescription opioid and heroin use through expanded treatment, prevention and recovery efforts. She called it her top priority to get the bill passed.

Quinn said while the state has reduced the number of automobile fatalities, the number of substance abuse fatalities is increasing. "We can't arrest our way out of this situation," he said, calling prescription drug abuse the first step to heroin use.

Quinn said community events and coalitions make a difference. Prevention, he said, is the most important element but called for more education in schools. He noted the opioid epidemic is a national problem, and while enforcement occurs, what is needed are more treatment and tools for recovery.

Celeste Clark, Raymond Coalition executive director, said there is a need to recognize that prescription drug abuse leads to heroin. She also called marijuana use a problem and said today's marijuana is much stronger than in previous generations, although she noted 41 percent of youth don't think using marijuana is a bad thing.

Clark mentioned community Drug Take Back programs and the Coalition's Youth Diversion Program, My Choice. She added that the Coalition outreach goes well beyond Raymond borders.

Kathryn Frey, New Futures of New Hampshire advocacy director, spoke about the economic impact of the substance abuse crisis, saying the costs run in the billions of dollars. Lost productivity, health care, public safety and criminal liability costs all add up, she said, noting the solutions are increased prevention, treatment, and recovery support. At present, she said, only about 6 percent of those involved receive treatment.

Tory Jennison, Seacoast Public Health Network Continuum of Care facilitator, spoke about the need for and benefits of community engagement, and Jocalyn Gallo and James Cooney described their volunteer experience, in which they put together a poster campaign based on the theme "Not Everybody Is Doing It" and "Busting Pot Culture." They said they had created the campaign and now needed organizations to spread the word.

This year's Raymond Coalition for Youth Community Partner Award went to the Raymond School District, the Community Leader Award was given to Sandra Lee Ellis, and the Youth Leadership Award was presented to eighth grader Ryan Nadeau.

To learn more about RCFY please visit our website www.rcfy.org or check us out on social media such as Facebook, twitter and our YouTube video page.

Promoting Positive Healthy Choices for Youth!



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