MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Thursday, U.S. Representative Chris Pappas (D-NH-01) met with a panel of local and regional experts at Manchester School of Technology to gain information on what the federal government can do in keeping kids safe from the influence of illegal drugs.
Makin’ It Happen Executive Director Mary Forsythe Taber of said many teenagers feel that resources are no longer available for them regarding substance abuse recovery or prevention, a feeling that must be challenged with greater outreach.
Manchester School District MTSS-B Coach Stacy Champey later discussed how the Manchester School District is using funding from a recently awarded SAMHSA grant to address substance abuse harm reduction among the city’s public school students, adding that the district will provide data on the program’s effectiveness and seek further grant funding with support from community partners over the next year.
Manchester School District Superintendent Dr. Jenn Gillis said that the grant has accelerated existing efforts by the district to address a variety of safety issues, including preventing and addressing substance use among children.
“Manchester has the most diverse school district in the state, but our teams have done a phenomenal job, they’ve really given us a leg up,” said Gillis. “Stacy is a remarkable human.
Taber also agreed with My Turn Executive Director Ali Joseph regarding how the transition from the Safe Stations program to the state’s Doorways program has harmed youth seeking to recover from drug abuse, with Taber stating that Doorways often does not work with teenagers. They added that the Doorways have also struggled in being available to those seeking to end their substance abuse.
“We need to fill that gap to help people when they’re ready whether they’re 14 or 18 or 21,” said Taber.
“It’s very damaging if you have to say ‘go back to bed in your car tonight and we’ll try tomorrow’,” said Joseph.
DEA Special Agent in Charge for New England Paul Spera, Joseph and Manchester School of Technology School Resource Officer Steve Orr discussed the prevalence of drugs among youth in New Hampshire.
Spera said drug dealers have transitioned from organic to synthetic drugs, creating an “infinite” supply of drugs no longer bound to agricultural limitations. He added that there has been a transition from needle injections to pills among youth due to the perception that there is less of a social stigma, noting that many pills are laced with fentanyl or its analogues. Joseph built on those comments regarding pills, adding that she has been told by many teenagers that heroin is easier to obtain than marijuana in Manchester. Both Orr and Joseph said that social media has become significant when it comes to drug use.
Media Power Youth Executive Director Heather Inyart and Taber also noted the role of social media in changing perceptions of drugs, with Inyart stating that social media companies needing to be held more accountable and Taber adding that parents also need to be informed more about the dangers of social media for youth.
Inyart added that it is difficult to procure grants for preventative mental health programs, stating the need for a shift from “crisis-based” mental health focuses.
Manchester Office of Youth Services Director Mike Quigley also stressed the need for expanded child care services, as well as the need for more adult role models in underserved communities that look like the children they serve and provide a trusted voice to help provide stability in their lives.
Pappas thanked the panel for their comments and urged continued communication with his office to facilitate future grant requests.
“Much of it comes down to dollars and cents, whether we’re willing to make the investment and whether we’re willing to get funding for some of these programs that will really be game changing for the kids and families of Manchester, said Pappas.