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Sarah Sadowski displays the New Futures community conversations flyer. Courtesy photo.




Join the conversation

Here’s a list of  the upcoming dates and locations of New Future’s community conversations.  Each event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m.
Rochester - March 20 at Rochester Recreation Department 
Derry - March 26 at  Pinkerton Academy
Laconia - March 27,  location to be announced 
 
For more information visit new-futures.org/events/NH-drugs-and-alcohol-lets-talk




What do you think?
Getting opinions on state’s drug and alcohol problems

03/20/14



 School administrator: “It just seems so ridiculously obvious what the economic impact [of addiction] is, and we’re not doing anything about it.” 

 
Youth worker: “Do you think it has anything to do with the ‘Live Free or Die’ mentality? The ‘we can take care of our own,’ and ‘it’s not your problem’ mentality?”
 
School teacher: “I think it is. I think it is ‘keep it quiet.’ And I’m sure it’s not just where I work, but I think about all the ambulances coming. I don’t remember any ambulances coming when I was in high school. But nobody’s telling anybody what’s going on. I think it is very quiet.”
 
From heroin overdoses and high-profile drug sweeps to marijuana bills and mental health care debates, drug use and abuse has gotten a lot of attention in New Hampshire recently. But what do people really think about it?
Last Wednesday evening, in a bright classroom in UNH Manchester’s University Center Building, about 35 people sat in three small circles talking through the state’s drug and alcohol issues. They were participating in one of nine statewide conversations sponsored by New Futures and facilitated by New Hampshire Listens in an effort to hear directly from the public.
“It’s easy for us to get in a spot where we’re preaching to the choir,” said Sarah Sadowski, New Futures community engagement director. “It’s an opportunity to move beyond what we think we know. ... This is  about, what does your skeptical neighbor think? Or your kid’s coach, or your teacher?”
Pair the news stories with recent statistics about a high prevalences of  drug and alcohol use (like more adolescents use illicit drugs in New Hampshire than they do in New England, or the nation) and a shortage of financial support for treatment and education (e.g. the state invests less than 1 percent of its alcohol sale profits in alcohol and drug misuse prevention, treatment and recovery) and some community members feel it’s time for change. 
Superintendents, politicians, convenience store workers, prison employees, mental health care workers and other community members came out to speak up. Some were recovering drug and alcohol addicts, while a few lost close family members or friends to addiction. 
They voiced needs for increased government funding for prevention and treatment and for educating parents and kids, as well as the social and economic costs of substance abuse. Not all of their comments were critical. They mentioned that with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, more people could have access to addiction and mental health services. 
But much of the conversation centered around a desire to reframe the face of addiction, and to begin looking at drug and alcohol misuse as a disease instead of a crime.  One of the biggest words of the evening was “stigma.”  
“People who go to treatment, when treatment works for them, are embarrassed to say out loud that substance abuse treatment works,” said Marty Boldin, a youth service worker for the City of Manchester and recovering alcoholic. “Even though I don’t feel totally safe saying I’m an adult in long-term recovery, I feel like I have to say it so that at least some people can say, ‘Well, people can get sober, people can get well from treatment.’ A lot of people in recovery choose to be, for good reason, anonymous about that.”
Stigma, the group agreed, is slowing down progress on multiple levels, because it frames problems as a choice, not a disease. Susan McKeown, a pediatric nurse practitioner and certified prevention specialist,  mentioned that unlike other medical illnesses, addictions have victims that go beyond the addict themselves. 
“This is where many people lose their sympathy,” she said. “It’s why you don’t have 5Ks and golf tournaments for drug-addicted people.”
One of the problems, Boldin said, is the tendency to think people with substance abuse look and behave in stereotyped ways. He said that isn’t the case. 
“Everybody in this circle could be high right now, totally functioning,” he said. “There are lots of people walking around every day impaired with substance abuse, performing heart surgery and running courtrooms and running businesses. We have this thing about, what does it look like? It doesn’t look like anything.”
As the participants talked passionately and seriously about the issues, the small groups’ facilitator took copious notes on poster-sized sheets of paper taped to the wall. The pages for facilitator Dennis Calcutt’s group were filled with phrases like “education/publicity is key on all levels” and “few treatment options.” More than two hours into their discussions, each group whittled the long lists into a few key points. Most involved a need to focus on education, inspire government funding and build infrastructure to educate and help people. 
But it all starts with addressing the popular opinions that perpetuate negative attitudes, said Ken Snow, a 50-year psychiatric social worker. 
“Nobody is going to be motivated to build an infrastructure for a problem they don’t believe in,” he said. “Misconception perpetuates negative attitudes.” 
Once all the discussions have been completed, records taken from each one will be analyzed and compiled, and New Futures will use findings to inform its new strategic plan for advocacy. 
“It will not drive policy, necessarily, but it’ll give us the views we need,”  Sadowski said. “If there are five or six salient points, you know where the energy and focus lies in those findings.”  
 
As seen in the March 20, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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