Drugs Meet Politics in Nashua
<strong>Manchester mayor, gov candidate talks plans</strong><em>
By KATHRYN MARCHOCKI
NASHUA – Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas came to Nashua on Wednesday and unveiled a comprehensive plan to combat the state’s heroin and opioid crisis, and he vowed to keep up the fight he has waged against the deadly epidemic a top priority of his campaign for governor.
“Fighting this epidemic is about action,” the Republican contender for the state’s top office said at news conference outside Nashua City Hall.
“Manchester is on the front lines, and we have been leading from the beginning, and I have no doubt that New Hampshire will emerge as a leader for the entire country,” added Gatsas, a former state senator now in his fourth term as Manchester mayor.
Gatsas’ plan to combat the fentanyl, heroin and opioid epidemic calls for education and prevention, expanded access and connection to treatment and recovery services and support for law enforcement and the judiciary.
<strong>By the numbers</strong>
Some of the programs he advocates build on ones that have already seen success in Manchester – such as expansion of the Safe Station Program, which connects users to treatment and recovery services, and Operation Granite Hammer, which has led to 94 arrests and the seizure of 777 grams of heroin and 5 pounds of cocaine to date.
Others call for a strong statewide response to tackle the opioid and opiate epidemic that last year was responsible for 397 of the record one-year total of 439 drug deaths. To that end, Gatsas proposals include legislation that would put a seven-day cap on first-time opioid prescriptions, require narcotics prescribers to participate in the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and expand access to medication-assisted therapies.
He said he also would attempt to have anyone caught selling fentanyl charged with attempted murder and those directly responsible for a fentanyl overdose death charged with murder.
Gatsas praised the signing into law on Tuesday of Senate Bill 464, which establishes drug courts in all 10 counties. Gatsas has been a vocal advocate of the creation of a drug court at Hillsborough County Superior Court North in Manchester for more than a year.
His comprehensive plan to combat opioid and opiate use signals the importance the issue will play in the 2016 race for governor.
Gatsas faces a crowded field of challengers in his bid to succeed Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running for U.S. Senate this fall. Other Republican contenders include Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester and state Rep. Frank Edelblut of Wilton. Democratic hopefuls include Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand and businessman Mark Connolly. The primary is Sept. 13.
<strong>‘A tremendous job’</strong>
Gatsas said he also supports providing recovery services to everyone seeking treatment; regional expansion of Amber’s Place, a round-the-clock facility open to any user ready to enter treatment; access to clinical detoxification; peerto- peer recovery centers, and employing a point person in the governor’s office to support treatment and recovery providers.
At a brief news conference, Gatsas credited lawmakers, law enforcers, businesses, health care providers, first-responders and others for successes made to date to help resolve the crisis.
He said local communities “have done a tremendous job” and lawmakers “worked diligently” to bring forward solutions to date.
He said their successes form the foundation for his plan, which will build and expand upon them.
<em>-This article was printed in The Nashua Telegraph, June 16, 2016.</em>