Apr 15, 2016 8:29 PM

On the Front Lines: Children of the Drug Crisis in Manchester

NH1 Chief Investigative Reporter - NH1.com

MANCHESTER — For nearly a year, we’ve been on the front lines of a drug crisis to show you how police and policymakers are trying to combat the drug problem.

What you haven’t seen though, is the impact the crisis is having on young people in the community – young people using, young people exposed to people using, and young people dealing. It’s the ugly truth that first responders from Manchester Police Department's Street Crime Unit and American Medical Response (AMR) deal with every day.

For 21-year-old Cody Ferry, having a place to do laundry is a luxury. Ferry has been homeless for nearly two years. When he’s not visiting Manchester’s Youth Resource Center, he’s on the streets, begging for money, so he can buy a spot on a couch for the night from someone he calls his "street brother."

"If I don’t come home with money I have to stay outside," Ferry said. "If I do come home with money then I can stay inside."

He’s also pleading for opportunity.

"I heard maybe three or four times, 'get a [expletive] job,'" Ferry said. "Well, how am I supposed to get a job if nobody wants to give me that opportunity to get experience to get a job? It’s just a vicious cycle that will never end. Manchester sucks."

Ferry's struggles on the streets of Manchester began when he started using drugs.

"My drug of choice? Crystal meth. I’ve been addicted to it for almost four years now," Ferry said.

He described the appeal of a meth high.

"I like the shadow people are cool, you’re supposed to look at them as friends," Ferry said. "They’re just figures, [waving his hand past the side of his face] shadow figures that go past your vision. I don’t know. I don’t like the drug. There’s part of me that likes it, there’s part of me that loves it. Then there’s part of me that hates it."

What Ferry hates even more is how he had to pay for those drugs.

"To be honest, I used to sell myself to male prostitutes to support my habit," Ferry said. "Pretty degrading, I know, but it is what it is. You can’t make friends lying, right? You have to be honest with people. So, I’m being honest with you."

Ferry said there are many others like him on the streets of the Queen City.

"People should help us because we're really going downhill. Because most of us are probably going to end up dead," he said.

"Drug addiction is all around us," Manchester Police Chief, Nick Willard said. "Just as I am driving the neighborhood right now, I could pick out five or six people right now that are strung out on heroin of some kind. I’ve poured so much of my sweat equity in this fight, and when we’re having a record number in February... I don't know what I am doing. I hate to tell you, it’s frustrating, deflating. I am at a point, this is the most discouraging, um, thing I’ve ever experienced.”

So far this year, the Unit has made 179 drug arrests, 152 for possession and 27 for sales. That’s an average of less than two arrest per day.

"It’s a mess, it’s a big mess," Regional Director of AMR, Chris Stawatz said. "I don’t know if we’re going to solve it, but we definitely have to control it."

Stawatz says the number of suspected opioid overdose calls they’ve responded to, are on track to quadruple this year over 2013.

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Tuesday night, AMR crews were called to an overdose at a Cedar Street home where a 36-year- old man was found unresponsive, and sadly, not alone.

"There were a number of children there from all different ages, like three to 14 years old plus other family members," Station Manager of AMR, Rocco Caprarello said.

After receiving six doses of narcan to revive him, the man and a three-year- old girl who may have picked up and pricked herself with his dirty needle, were taken to a local hospital.

"It’s sad, you know, especially when there are kids involved," Caprarello said. "The kids seem to be dealing with it well. I mean, it makes you think, is this something that is commonplace for them? When this happens they just go on with their lives."

And then there are those like Ferry, who are willing to share their stories and their struggles to drive change.

"We should all help each other, you know? There are some people out there that help, you know, but there needs to be more people that show, you know, care-ness," Ferry said.

This is just part one of our series "On the Front Lines – Children in Crisis." As we continue to bring you these stories, we want to hear from you. Do you have a story you want to tell? Questions you want our leaders to answer? Email Celine McArthur, or send her a message on Facebook or Twitter to keep the conversation going.

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