State meets drug addiction challenge head on

CNN called our newsroom Friday looking for comment on a report of President Donald Trump telling Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto he won in New Hampshire because the state is "a drug infested den."

Rather than giving them the outrage quote they were looking for, we shared the truth as we know it.

Granite Staters view providing prevention, treatment and recovery services as a shared responsibility. We have seen that drug addiction hurts individuals and families in every corner of the state from every socio-economic background and that no one is immune from the threat.

Over the past five or six years, our police, courts, schools, social service agencies and elected officials have joined with the overwhelming majority of citizens to accept that drug addiction is a public health crisis. Fueled in large part by the overprescribing of opiates, drug addiction is a national issue and we expect most states and communities are working hard to slow the devastation. President Trump, like all the candidates campaigning in the New Hampshire Primary, got an earful from voters about their concerns, because we're facing the problem honestly.

So how do we feel about President Trump's comment? In our view, it's largely irrelevant because it's not based in reality.

What we do find relevant are the very good things members of our community are doing at this very minute to help. For example:

Monday, as this editorial was being written, hundreds of Seacoast citizens were gathering to participate in the second annual Hungry For Hope event, which aims to raise $30,000 for the Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth. Dan and Renee Plummer of Two International Group provided a venue at One Harbour Place, two dozen of the city's top restaurants donated food and many other businesses provided beverages and financial support.

"This is a community-wide fight," said John Akar, owner of Cava Tapas and Wine Bar and one of the event's lead organizers. "It touches home not only personally with us — it is a reminder that it can happen to anyone. It's not just one segment of the population."

Monday afternoon in Rockingham Superior Court two young men graduated from a drug court program, which allows non-violent offenders to avoid jail time if they successfully commit to an intensive recovery program.

The drug court requires a massive commitment on the part of our criminal justice system, with each participant receiving supervision from more than half a dozen officials, including the presiding judge. Monday's graduations were such an accomplishment that U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan attended and offered comments.

On Sunday we were pleased to report about Chameleon Group, a Portsmouth business run by Dana Lariviere of Dover and Steve Tentindo of Stratham, that employees more than a dozen people in recovery.

Working with Bonfire Recovery to identify likely job candidates is not simply an act of good will but also good business because reliable workers are a precious resource at this time of near full employment.

"We've taken a risk," Lariviere said, "but it's a calculated risk. I think it's just the right thing to do."

Granite Staters from all walks of life are stepping up and embracing those who are battling addiction, helping them get their lives back on track. We're proud of that. Do we have a drug problem in this state? We do. But what defines us is not the problem but our willingness to work together to do something about it.

~ The Portsmouth Herald


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