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April 5, 2014

Salem roundtable focus on heroin epidemic

Law enforcement, health care officials gather in Salem

SALEM — When a 15-year-old Salem High School student was caught stealing money from teachers two years ago to feed a heroin habit, it was obvious she needed help.

Some people tried to help her, but it wasn’t enough, according to Salem police prosecutor Jason Grosky.

“She’s now 17 and she is still in the situation that she was when she was 15,” he said.

New Hampshire needs more resources and long-term treatment programs to help the increasing number of people becoming addicted to heroin and prescription drugs, he said.

They include a soaring number of teenagers, some as young as 13, he said.

“It is extremely scary,” Grosky said.

That’s why an 18-member panel of law enforcement and health care experts gathered at the Salem police station yesterday for a drug addiction roundtable discussion led by U.S. Sen Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

Shaheen said she met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday and emphasized the need to fight the nation’s spiraling drug problem.

The roundtable participants described the frustration dealing with the problem with only limited resources.

“I think heroin and opiate addiction is the state’s biggest problem,” New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster said. “The depth of the problem is far greater than I imagined.”

In the last 10 years, the number of people admitted to state treatment programs for heroin use has increased 90 percent, with the largest surges in the last two years, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. There were 64 heroin-related deaths last year.

In the past decade, the number of people treated for prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed 500 percent, the department said.

Other law enforcement officials at the roundtable discussion included New Hampshire State Police Maj. David Parenteau, Scott Sweet of the New Hampshire Drug Task Force, Nashua police Chief John Seusing, Salem police Chief Paul Donovan and several members of the Salem Police Department.

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