How NH Cop Deals with Drug Overdose Crisis

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The New York Times Magazine profiles Laconia. N.H., police officer Eric Adams, who may be the only officer in the U.S. whose job title is prevention, enforcement and treatment coordinator. Of the 13 states with the highest death rates from drug overdoses, five are in New England. New Hampshire has more per capita overdose deaths than anywhere but West Virginia. In 2012, the state had 163 such deaths, a majority of them from heroin and prescription opioids. In 2015, the state had nearly 500 deaths, the most in its history.

Laconia Chief Christopher Adams (not related to Eric Adams) said that until recently, he couldn’t recall ever hearing of a heroin case. ‘‘Now it’s every day,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a majority. Not just in Laconia. It’s all over.’’ He and his lieutenant sat down to consider what their department might do. There three conceivable approaches to a drug problem: prevention, enforcement and treatment. To accomplish all three would mean regarding drug users, and misusers, as not only criminals. They were also customers who were being targeted and sold to; they were also victims who needed medical treatment. To coordinate all those approaches would require a particular sort of officer. In Adams’s daily work, it is unavoidable that certain values competed. A client might divulge a crime to him, and he would be forced to interrupt her to give a Miranda warning. ‘‘If there is a crime, that individual needs to be held accountable,’’ he said. ‘‘But this is where our prosecutor, our judges, come into play.’’

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