MANCHESTER, NH – Without an open public forum planned this election cycle during which candidates would make time to discuss their platforms in depth, voters will have to make due with written proposals by Mayor Ted Gatsas and opponent Joyce Craig on how they would tackle the city’s most persistent problem: The opioid crisis.
On Oct. 17, Craig’s camp released her plan for addressing the drug crisis and related safety issues. Her “Safe Streets, Opioid Crisis, and Recovery Services Plan” – a segment of her overarching plan for moving the city forward – includes provisions for early education, support for expanded Medicaid, and receiving support from the state.
Craig issued the following statement with the release Tuesday of her plan:
“The opioid crisis is continuing to harm Manchester. Programs like Safe Station are vital to our response, but we need to be doing more. I believe we need a comprehensive approach including early education, prevention, peer recovery support, strong enforcement, and increased advocacy. As the largest city in the state, Manchester needs to lead the effort to combat the opioid crisis. As mayor, I will fight for state and federal resources and empower our community service providers to respond effectively. The safety of every resident of Manchester is my first priority, and my plan reflects the steadfast approach I will take to addressing opioid and safety issues in our city.”
Her opioid plan is outlined below:
Safe Streets, Opioid Crisis and Recovery Services Plan
The mayor’s first priority must be the safety of every resident. Manchester continues to struggle with an opioid crisis and related crime and we need to tackle this problem as a community. I’ll bring key stakeholders together – public safety, treatment providers, peer-recovery supports, hospitals, and non-profits to make sure we’re doing everything we can to end this crisis. I’ll lead a comprehensive approach that includes early education, continued prevention, peer recovery support, and strong enforcement to solve this problem.
As Mayor, I will
- Continue regular ride-alongs with the police and fire departments to understand the challenges our community and first responders face
- Develop and implement an evidence-based substance use prevention education program for schools and the community
- Hold landlords accountable for problem properties where drugs are being sold and used and crimes are committed
- Lead weekly interdepartmental meetings between the mayor, fire, health, police, office of youth services, the superintendent and key community organizations to ensure we are working together to comprehensively address the opioid crisis
- Track and report outcomes based on funding to identify the most effective programs and improve services that combat the opioid crisis
- Monitor indicators such as arrest data, emergency room admission rates, respite center admission rates and average wait time to identify key areas that need improvement
- Compile citywide overdose data and utilize the data to identify and target interventions to reduce overdoses and overall opioid misuse
- Establish partnership with the state to address this statewide problem. Over 65 percent of Safe Station entrants come from outside of Manchester; we need the state to recognize and invest in this program as a statewide resource
- Advocate for resources from state and federal agencies that city departments and community service providers need to make a lasting difference in this fight, such as recovery housing throughout the state
- Maintain a full police complement at all times to ensure resident safety
- Support and advocate for expanded Medicaid. Without it, Safe Station would end and treatment options in Manchester would significantly decrease
- Develop and implement a comprehensive plan to address chronic homelessness
Her complete platform is outlined here at joycecraig.org.
By comparison, Mayor Gatsas last week released his 12-point plan for the city, which includes a section on the opioid epidemic. Included with that release by his campaign, Gatsas said:
“Manchester is a city that has experienced tremendous growth and is filled with limitless opportunity. As Manchester’s Mayor I will continue to work everyday to ensure the Queen City realizes its potential while protecting the taxpayers.”
“My 12-point plan for Manchester’s future is forward thinking, builds upon the foundation of the city’s success, and details our opportunities for the future. My plan is comprehensive, developed with input from citizens across the city, and addresses a broad range of issues important to the citizens of Manchester. From taxes and spending, to tackling the opioid epidemic, paving our roads, reducing class sizes, accountability for elected officials, and the Queen City economy this plan is a clear road map for Manchester’s future.
“ I love Manchester, and I am proud of the Queen City. We are in the midst of a renaissance; the city has transformed from a textile and manufacturing community to a technology hub. Everyday we are growing, more people are moving into the city, and businesses are expanding and relocating to Manchester because Manchester is the place to be in New Hampshire. With my complete 12-point plan for Manchester’s future Queen City taxpayers can expect their hard-earned money to stay where it belongs, in their wallet, and more gains for Manchester’s future.”
The paragrph devoted to “Tackling the Opioid Epidemic” calls for a continuation of Safe Station, and the pursuit of affordable housing options for those in recovery. It reads as follows:
The number one public safety issue facing our city is the opioid epidemic. This epidemic has had a profound effect on our city, our state, and our country. Here in Manchester we have worked with our emergency responder community and developed the nationally recognized Safe Station program. In conjunction we have partnered with providers across the city that treat substance abuse disorder. Together through a public/private partnership the city has increased awareness and access to treatment. We must continue this effort with focus and diligence, and we must also identify safe, affordable recovery housing within Manchester. The collective results of our efforts are overdose fatalities are down and our programs are working.
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Chris Sununu issued the following statement with regard to a meeting he had with Gatsas on Oct. 16 during which he pledged $150,000 in state funding for continued support of the city’s Safe Station:
“Yesterday, I had a productive meeting with Mayor Ted Gatsas, officials from the city, and New Hampshire Drug Czar David Mara. We worked to secure adequate funding to help ensure the immediate needs of the Manchester Safe Station program and Serenity Place and assuring the continuation of this critical partnership. Manchester’s programming serves as a regional access point for thousands of people suffering from substance abuse disorder to immediate treatment and it is imperative that the state support these services. Mayor Gatsas understands the needs of Manchester and what it takes as we battle this opioid epidemic.”
“I want to commend the Manchester Fire Department and all our emergency responders for their tireless work co-leading this initiative along with our non-profit community. This initiative benefits not only the City of Manchester but the entire State of New Hampshire.”
Craig and Gatsas have committed to four side-by-side moderated meetings, the first of which took place on Oct. 16 in the WGIR AM radio studio. Candidates had 90 seconds to answer questions from host Jack Heath, and 30 seconds for rebuttal. You can read more on that here, including a link to the podcast.
Three more pre-election events are planned – Oct. 25 at 7:30 a.m. during a Greater Manchester Chamber of commerce breakfast meeting, which is open to the public for the cost of a ticket ($35 for Chamber members/$45 for non-members), but limited in space; Nov. 2 live on NH Public Radio during The Exchange at 9 a.m.; and a televised WMUR Debate (date to be announced.)
To date, the Gatsas campaign has not responded directly or publicly to Craig’s challenge of three debates in public settings as she has proposed, to take place at the city’s three high schools.
On Oct. 5 the Craig campaign issued the following statement regarding the debate challenge:
“Mayor Gatsas received contact from our campaign on September 29th and has not responded to our request for public forums. Joyce believes its important to allow residents the opportunity to ask questions directly to candidates and hopes Mayor Gatsas will agree to the proposed forums and work with our campaign to schedule them as soon as possible. In 2015 Joyce agreed to participate in six forums across the city after Mayor Gatsas sent a challenge. Why is Mayor Gatsas afraid to give voters an opportunity to ask questions before this important election?”
Several requests by ManchesterInkLink.com in the weeks that followed were made to the Gatsas campaign for a direct response to Craig’s debate challenge. A Gatsas campaign spokesperson reiterated the four planned forums were on their calendar, with no mention of the possibility of a series of public debates.