Monday night saw the second educational forum regarding the growing opiate epidemic, held at the Congregational Church in New Hampshire. The forum was full of emotions and loss as many relatives of those who have passed away from opiate overdoses spoke up about their struggles. In attendance was Jim and Jeanne Moser, who lost their son Adam in September due to an overdose of fentanyl. They sat in the back of the church as others spoke about their work on the front line of the epidemic, only speaking about their loss near the end of the forum.
"His friends told him that he should sleep it off. He never work up," stated Jim Moser. He mentioned that his son was not addicted to opiates at the time of his death. He had tried fentanyl once and overdosed due to it. The Moser's have since then dedicated themselves to warning others about the dangers of this drug, spending their Halloween evening at bars in Portsmouth to stop others from trying opiates before they started.
The opiate crisis has been growing across the nation, and many communities are struggling with the effects of their family members trying drugs and dying. Exeter itself has seen it's third overdose this year and remains in mourning. Recently deceased Jordan Welch was a 21 year old athlete from Hampton who overdosed recently. His uncle attended the forum where he spoke about the need to address these issues. He proposes that those who distribute heroin and other mixtures of opiates should see jail time, or be charged with murder.
Exeter Police Chief, Richard Kane, spoke on the limitations of his department and the law. There is only so much that the Police Department is able to do when it comes to pursuing and prosecuting drug dealers in the area. This has driven home the importance of alternative sentencing programs for those who are suffering from opiate addiction. While New Hampshire has a new specialized drug court program named "New Hope," it has not stemmed the tide of those who are heading into the jail system, where treatment options are scarce.
The lack of services for addicts, before and after jail, lead to a high relapse rate which puts offenders back in jail. While some may support this current system, it is a heavy burden on the taxpayers. The cost of jail is $30,000 per year, per person, while treatments are only $8,000 a year, making treatment a more fiscally responsible choice. The Police Department supports the expansion of different options for drug addicts, citing that one of the major frustrations of his department is the lack of treatment centers for those who need help.
Paula Francese, the District 18 State Representative, spoke in support of expanded treatment services to battle the opiate crisis. She pledged her support in finding and securing any and all possible funding from the state for recovery from addiction.
"I promise the people of this community that I will vote for any money that we can squeeze out of the legislature," she stated amidst applause.
This forum was the second part of a three part series that is being held by We the People Lecture and Film Series of Exeter NH. The third part of the series will be open to the public in January of 2016.