Aug 9, 2015 9:18 AM

Manchester officials continue to advocate for drug court

MANCHESTER — Officials in the state's largest city continue to push for a drug court to provide alternatives to incarceration for people in the Manchester area convicted of drug or drug-related offenses.

According to the Union Leader, the Hillsborough County delegation turned down a request to use $443,000 of the $4 million county surplus to establish a drug court, despite strong lobbying by Mayor Ted Gatsas, members of the aldermanic board, the police chief and other city officials.

“We will continue to tap every source even if we have to go back to the county … for some sort of emergency funding,” Gatsas said. “It's not that the drug court is the be-all-end-all, but the success seen in Strafford County is certainly a big part of it.”

Officials in Strafford County, home to the state's first drug court, credit the program with reducing the recidivism rate to 22 percent, compared to a national recidivism rate among drug offenders of 67 percent.

While Gov. Maggie Hassan recently rejected a request to use a portion of the federal substance abuse funds to set up a Manchester drug court, saying federal rules do not allow the current grant to be spent that way, she says she supports the concept.

Hassan wrote in a letter to Gatsas that she was “committed to establishing a drug court in Manchester — either through the general funds I proposed or by working with Hillsborough North to reapply for those federal funds in the next grant cycle.”

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard said the county delegation's vote against funding the drug court prompted him to take steps to raise more awareness around the issue, such as the community forum held at the downtown Radisson last month that drew around 400 people.

Willard said he's starting to see evidence that attitudes are changing.

“I think there's a greater level of awareness, I'm hearing that a lot even from politicians. I'm hoping that awareness will translate into action, action in the form of treatment, education and prevention,” he said, adding, “I hope we can overcome the politics of the issue.”


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