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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Heroin issue can’t wait on DOJ

Telegraph Editorial

We love the fact that officials in Hillsborough County aren’t waiting for the federal government before proceeding with a drug court designed to get some hard-core addicts into treatment programs.

Sure, we hope the Department of Justice comes up with the $700,000 in grant money that has been requested to allow as many as 80 people to participate in two such courts starting this fall. ...

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We love the fact that officials in Hillsborough County aren’t waiting for the federal government before proceeding with a drug court designed to get some hard-core addicts into treatment programs.

Sure, we hope the Department of Justice comes up with the $700,000 in grant money that has been requested to allow as many as 80 people to participate in two such courts starting this fall.

As reported in a story by Joseph G. Cote in The Sunday Telegraph, drug courts typically take non-violent addicts who are considered likely repeat offenders and offer them a pathway to get treatment for their addictions. In return for suspended jail terms, the addicts agree to participate in intensive, long-term programs aimed at helping them kick their habits.

The Hillsborough County model, which has been in the works for more than a year, would use federal grant money to establish one court each in Nashua and Manchester. The money – which would be used to pay for treatment – is being held up by Washington budget wrangling and its future is uncertain.

Not willing to let a little thing like federal inertia throw them off track, Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Jacalyn Colburn said the Greater Nashua Mental Health Center has agreed to provide free drug treatment to a small number of people, beginning this month.

We admire the court and the health care professionals who have decided to solider on without waiting for federal money. It’s a clear sign of their determination and commitment to fight the region’s heroin epidemic. They recognize that the region can’t wait for the feds to play catchup.

We like that fact that the drug court represents an attempt to treat our heroin-addiction problem as the public health issue it is. It’s consistent with a decision earlier this year by the state Medical Control Board to allow more emergency medical technicians to administer the drug Narcan to overdose victims, halting overdose symptoms and almost instantly reviving addicts who might die without the drug.

Which is not to say that old-fashioned law enforcement doesn’t have a role to play. It does.

We took note when Nashua Police Chief John Seusing recently asked for more money in the budget to pay for additional detectives. He pointed out that the number of drug overdoses in Nashua this year has already exceeded the number recorded through all of last year.

“If I had more detectives in my drug unit, I absolutely believe that we would be able to make an impact in the drug dealing that’s going on in this city,” Seusing told members of the aldermanic Budget Review Committee.

The chief made a strong case. Much of the crime in the city – across the board – can be tied to the city’s drug problem.

At the same time, if the failed war on drugs has taught us anything, it’s that law enforcement efforts – regardless of how well-funded and vigorous – rarely have much of an impact on demand, and supply goes where demand is greatest. Even the chief knows the police can’t go it alone, and Seusing calls the drug court “long overdue.”

He’s right. It offers the most hope for help in the long run.

“This drug epidemic is a problem that we cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of,” said Colburn, the judge. “We just can’t. It’s just a fact. We need to do something that turns the tide.”

Of course, they could probably do more – and turn the tide quicker – if they received some help from the U.S. Department of Justice.