Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield is putting his office to work to prevent drug and alcohol addiction. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield is putting his office to work to prevent drug and alcohol addiction. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

All prevention is local

Regional prevention networks battle the disease of addiction in New Hampshire communities

A 27-year-old friend had just died of a drug overdose.

Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield was stunned to get the phone call — he still had a message from her on his voice mail.

“If nothing else,” said Merrifield, “I thought we could put the office of mayor to work to prevent the same circumstances for someone else.” So he created the Franklin Mayor’s Drug Task Force.

But what would be effective — and how would the work be funded? The task force turned to the Capital Region Community Prevention Coalition for help.

New Hampshire has 13 regional prevention networks, which the Foundation helps to fund as part of a 10-year, $12 million investment in substance abuse prevention in the state.

The coalition provided guidance, helped with community-wide strategic planning, identified key community risk factors and took a lead role in writing a proposal that earned a $625,000 federal grant.

Now Franklin has installed a permanent prescription drug take-back receptacle for medications that could end up being abused, collecting more than 500 pounds so far. Young people have been engaged through the Franklin Youth Initiative. Community members have testified before the New Hampshire Legislature. The
police chief has been on local radio, raising awareness during prom and graduation seasons.

Merrifield would love to see his city have “no problem whatsoever” with substance abuse, but he knows that may be wishful thinking.

“But if we can improve the lives of our citizens by steering them away from making these choices, then I would consider it a success,” said Merrifield.

This story originally appeared in the Foundation’s 2012 Annual Report.