Manchester’s Top Cop is in Washington DC preparing to testify before Congress about the opioid crisis in New Hampshire. We talked to him today about what he thinks he can offer lawmakers here and what he’s hoping to accomplish for New Hampshire.
WILLARD: “What was her addiction?”
JANET: “We were twins.”
WILLARD: “So, it was your sister? I’m sorry, I am really, really sorry. How are you coping?”
JANET: “I’m not.”
That’s Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard having a painfully honest conversation with a heroin addict. 54-year-old Janet Maset can’t hold back the tears as she shares her struggles and the story of her twin sister who recently killed herself after a long battle with drugs.
“My best friend. My only family. I can’t even imagine how I feel because i don’t even know how I feel, because I won’t let myself feel,” says Janet. She adds,”People like us need help. They need to be there for us.”
“That’s the face of the crisis, It really is,” says Chief Willard. He adds, “Those politicians who don’t understand it? Those callous individuals that have that stigma that they push out as their narrative that, ‘Hey, it’s their life and they can do whatever they want with it. It’s their fault.’ They don’t know the Janet’s of our society.”
Willard often walks or drives the streets of his city, and talks to people like Janet, hoping to better understand what drives addiction.
“I’m just a knuckle-dragging police chief. I can’t solve it all on my own. I can tell you that much,” says Willard. He adds, “I partner with a lot of people, not just law enforcement agencies, but also social services, the fire department, the health department, because I really believe in collaborations. Using the resources that you have available to you.”
That’s why lawmakers in our nation’s capitol asked him to fly into DC and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. They want to know what Willard’s learned on the front lines and through his extensive research.
“I was kind of overwhelmed, a little intimidated even,” says Willard. He adds, ”I realized just the gravity of what they’re asking me to do. I just don’t want to let anybody down. I want to be able to go in there and give a perspective and represent our citizens and state well.”
As you can see, this piece was a long time in the making. Many hours on the streets with the Chief Willard and the Manchester PD and many conversations with the people at the core of the crisis. Coming up… the hearing.