NH1 News Exclusive: On the Front Lines: The Latest Drugs and Newest Faces of Manchester’s Drug Battle

MANCHESTER – As if heroin and fentanyl aren’t creating enough of a crisis in Manchester, the Queen City is also facing a potentially explosive problem with methamphetamines.

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard

“Whatever the users are looking for, the drug dealers are going to do everything they can to get it to them,” says Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard.

So, we’re going back to the front lines with MPD’s Street Crime Unit, showing you how this expanding and evolving drug trade is impacting people who call this city home.

 

“A lot of killings, stabbings, shootings, all because of drugs,” says Manchester Native Jessica Corbin

 

“I was born and raised here, this is where I grew up and I’ve watched it deteriorate to what it is now,” says her boyfriend Alan White.

Corbin and White speak to NH1 news as they take one of their last walks through their Manchester neighborhood before packing up and leaving Manchester—for good.

“We’re moving to get a new start, away from all of this,” says Corbin. “We can’t be around it. I have a son.” She adds, “All of my friends can’t seem to grasp onto the concept that they’re losing their lives slowly because of what this drug is doing to them. It’s tearing apart our families and friends.”

 

“It’s hard for me as, particularly the new chief, to hear people that, people want to move out of the city because of crime,” says Chief Willard.

That’s why Manchester PD—along with state police and DEA—are aggressively tracking the addicts and tackling the dealers.

 

“There are some really bad people that are in that mix that are going to do violent things to get money to get their heroin,” says Willard. “They’re still pumping drugs on the street, so to me, that’s no different than if they just hit a corner store at gunpoint.”

In this case, police say the heroin dealer is 16 years old.

“Yeah, I have to be honest, I was shocked,” says Willard. “This 16-year-old is going to be a dangerous character for a long time.”

In the meantime, police are facing a new threat – meth.

“Big in other parts of the country, and they say it’s making a swing this way. So, we’ll have to wait and see,” says Sgt. Chris Sanders, Manchester PD Street Crime Unit.

 

Just hours after saying that, Sgt. Sanders and the Street Crime Unit follow a lead and seize more than 100 grams of meth and thousands of dollars in cash from this Laurel Street apartment.

“This is not what you’d consider for personal use. This is obviously someone distributing,” says Sgt. Sanders.

 

CELINE: “As a police officer, how concerning is that for you to know that this is in your city?”

SANDERS: “Very concerning. We haven’t seen the push with methamphetamine, but apparently it’s made its way to Manchester.”

With more meth, may come more violence.

“For some reason, there appears to be a lot of violence that surround that drug for whatever reason, kind of like the crack cocaine of the early 90s. There was a lot of violence that surrounded the crack cocaine epidemic,” says Willard.

 

“The reason why is probably the amount of paranoia that it causes. It completely distorts your cognitive reasoning, so you kind of find yourself in a fantasy land, so to speak,” says Det. Aaron Brown, Manchester PD Street Crime Unit.

While these street sweepings aren’t pretty, they’re needed to get the job done.

 

“It sucks to see people being taken down on the street like this, but at the same time, it’s what needs to happen,” says White. He adds, “I can only hope for the best that you know all of these people can finally clean up, and this area can maybe get back to normal and get better.”

 

These missions are part of the joint law enforcement initiative called Operation Granite Hammer. In the first 4 weeks, 46 people have been arrested. You can learn more about it on my Facebook page, Celine McArthur NH1 News.

Addiction Front Lines

The heroin epidemic in New Hampshire is something we often hear about, but rarely see. We ride with the Street Crime Unit of the Manchester Police Department to show you what officers are up against every day. We explore the anatomy of a heroin addict. We also expose an issue that makes solving the opioid crisis extremely challenging, if not possible: drug addicts who do not want to sober up and face the harsh realities of their lives. You’ll meet a mother of three who—right after we wake her up on the side of the road—describes her heroin highs as orgasmic. Lastly, as we profile the opioid crisis in the Queen City, a new threat emerges: Meth. It’s the ugly truth of drug abuse.

This story has become part of the national narrative, thanks in part to the First-in-the-Nation primary in New Hampshire. We will explore what is and isn’t being done—politically—on the local, state and national levels. Watch as we travel to Washington DC to follow Manchester’s police chief as he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Stay tuned.

Sue over a negative review? NH1 News Investigates Dusty Old Cars of Nashua

doc-celine-and-stephan-condo
Celine McArthur introduces the story on Stephan Condodemetraky, owner of Dusty Old Cars in Nashua, New Hampshire

Stephen Kelly: “I’ve been had.”

Celine McArthur: “Do you think you’re ever going to see your car?”

Stephen Kelley: “No, I am sure it’s gone. It’s gone. But I don’t want others to feel this way, so let’s see what we can do.”

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Celine McArthur and Stephen Kelley

Stephen Kelley of Medford Massachusetts says he’s been scammed by a classic and vintage car dealer in Nashua. In October of 2015, Kelley handed over his 1970 Cadillac Deville convertible to Stephan Condodemetraky, owner of Dusty Old Cars, to sell on consignment.

final-doc-pic-of-sold-car
Picture of Stephen Kelley’s car on Dusty Old Car’s website

“The pitch that was made to me from them was, we get a lot of traffic on our website for people who are looking for exactly what you’re selling, so if someone is looking for an antique car, they’ll come to us first,” says Kelley. He adds, “I was thrilled that they came and did all the work. They came, they got the car… and there were literally hundreds of pictures of that car on their website. I thought, these people really have their act together.”

In February of 2016, the convertible—priced at 8 thousand dollars—was listed as sold on Dusty Old Car’s website.

For months, Kelley emailed and called to find out when he would get the paperwork required to transfer the car to a buyer and when he’d get paid.

“About 30 emails back and forth going into March, April, May—always the same thing. Let me check the sales report and get back to you,” says Kelley.

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One sample of the email chain between Stephen Kelley and Dusty Old Cars

In response, Kelley filed a report with the Better Business Bureau, which gave Dusty Old Cars an “F” rating.

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The BBB review of Dusty Old Cars: F

He filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office and quickly discovered he was NOT the first to do so.

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“One of 43 outstanding complaints with this particular car dealer,” says Kelley.

Kelley also sent a warning email to Dusty Old Car’s customers using addresses listed on a mass email.

final-doc-letter-to-customers-warning
Stephen Kelly’s email to Dusty Old Car customers. Addresses retrieved from a mass emailing from the business

That’s when Kelley got a response from Condodemetraky.

Condodemetraky on voicemail: “You know, it took about five minutes five minutes for me to locate you, sir. So, it’s going to take about five minutes for my attorney to locate you too. And then we’re going to come after you personally. That’s after we file the criminal charges with the police departments.”

We went to Dusty Old Cars to find out what’s going on with Kelley’s car.

final-doc-celine-talking-on-phone-at-window
Celine talking to Stephan Condodemetraky at the front window of his business. He wouldn’t come out of his office. During this call, I asked him about the status of Kelley’s car. He refused to answer.

The owner was inside the building, but wouldn’t speak to me in person. By phone, he told me to call his lawyer.

final-doc-ron-caron-attorney-office
Stephan Condodemetraky’s attorney: Ron Caron, Manchester

We did—for a week – with no response. So we went back.

final-doc-celine-interviews-employee
An employee approaches us as we search for Stephen Kelley’s car. We ask him about the convertible. He doesn’t have an answer.

He said no. As we looked for the car, an employee approached us.

Employee: You can get the microphone out of my face. I’d appreciate it.

Celine: We are here simply to get a very simple answer. Where is this car?

Employee: The car… is… uh… Well, I’m not sure where it is. I don’t know which car you’re talking about. I’d have to look into…

Celine: [pulling up a picture of  the car on iPhone]: Here, let me show you.

Employee: I actually have a job to do so you guys… [Employee walks away]

Because Kelley has NO IDEA where the car is and who may be driving it, he’s been paying the insurance, just in case.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s still my car and I’m still responsible for it,” says Kelley.

final-doc-jim-steiner
Jim Steiner, Concord Attorney

“Until he has an actual bill of sale, and the title is transferred, if there was any damage to the car, he would be—he as the owner and seller—would be responsible for the damage that occurs,” says Jim Steiner, Concord Attorney.

final-doc-nhsp-nicole-armaganian
Lt. Nicole Armaganian, New Hampshire State Police

“And then to know that it could potentially belong to somebody else, they could do anything with it from committing crimes to selling pieces of it,” says New Hampshire State Police Lieutenant Nicole Armaganian. She adds, “If you have a valid inspection sticker you could sell that, the valid registration you could sell that. If someone has a stolen vehicle, and they need just the VIN plate on a valid vehicle that looks to be the same, they could do something like that.”

This is just the beginning of the story. We are committed to helping Kelley find his car or get paid.

If you’re an unhappy customer of Dusty Old Cars, you need to read the fine print of your contract. There’s a non-disparagement clause, also known as a gag order, in it that prevents you from saying anything negative about Dusty Old Cars—even if it’s true.  Our legal expert Jim Steiner says it’s far from a slam-dunk in court, but you may want to contact your own lawyer.

Senior Assistant Attorney General & Consumer Protection Bureau Chief James Boffetti tells us that they have nearly 50 open and active investigations against Dusty Old Cars. Boffetti can’t share any details about the investigation but says *if his investigators find that Dusty Old Cars –or any NH business—violates Consumer Protection Laws, they can take pursue civil and criminal charges.

  • If an individual is found guilty of a civil Consumer Protection Act violation, he or she can face penalties of up to $10,000 per conviction.
  • If an individual is found guilty of a criminal Consumer Protection Act violation—a misdemeanor—the maximum penalty is 12 months in the New Hampshire House of Corrections and a $2,000 fine per count.
  • If a business is found guilty of a criminal Consumer Protection Act violation—a felony—the maximum penalty is $100,000 per conviction.

doc-graphic-for-the-endingIf you’ve been ripped off by Dusty Old Cars, please send me an email or a message on social media.

We will continue to investigate this story.

NH1 NEWS EXCLUSIVE: Taking Back New Hampshire

Preview on NH1 News at 5:

Preview on NH1 News at 6:

“It’s the men and women in uniform, who are getting a 911 call and they’re getting dispatched to a house or a car or a restaurant bathroom—or wherever—and they’re the ones, the first one on scene.  They’re the ones who are going to help us get to a point where we can make that follow-up investigation.” –Jon DeLena, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, DEA

FINAL Jon DeLena
Jon DeLena, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, DEA

The follow-up investigation that leads to the arrest and conviction of people dealing in death. On average, at least one person dies every day in New Hampshire from a drug overdose. 439 overdoses in 2015 and the Medical Examiner predicts that there will be 482 drug related deaths in 2016.

FINAL Emily Rice
Emily Rice, U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire

“And in some instances, I think we are going to find that a single dealer is responsible for multiple deaths,” says Emily Rice, U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire.

But building cases strong enough to convict the dealers has been a huge challenge for prosecutors and police. We show you how a huge statewide law enforcement initiative is taking back New Hampshire.

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Glen Drolet, Northwood Police Chief & President of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police

“New Hampshire, for reasons still unknown to us, has been a magnet for heroin and fentanyl,” says Glen Drolet, Northwood Chief of Police and President of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police. He adds, “It’s a problem that is skyrocketing out of control.”

“When you really work backwards from the call, whether it’s a domestic, whether it’s a hazardous op, an impaired driver, you’ll find often it’s substance abuse, misuse that’s at the root of it,” says Colonel Robert Quinn, Director, New Hampshire State Police.

FINAL Colonel Quinn
Colonel Robert Quinn, New Hampshire State Police

“I’m responding to Brown Avenue and … the highway,” says American Medical Response Station Manager Rocco Caprarello.

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On this summer night in Manchester—the epicenter of the drug crisis in New Hampshire—our cameras are rolling for three overdose calls in three hours. In this case, police had to shut down the Brown Avenue exit from I-293, so first responders could revive a man who overdosed in a car.

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Rocco Caprarello, American Medical Response

“We witnessed what we respond to nearly every day in this city,” says Caprarello.

All three brought back to life, but so far, no dealers have been held responsible for giving them the drugs that could have led to their deaths.

“You weren’t breathing. If somebody wasn’t here, and found you, you could have been a statistic. You could have been dead,” says Caprarello. He adds, “Does that drug have that much effect that they just don’t care and they live for the next time that they can use?”

Chief Glen Drolet says the answer, is often yes.

“Cooperation, a lot of times, is not there. Even when we’ve had cases here in Northwood where level one’s have OD’d, and they wouldn’t provide any information to us, for whatever reason,” says Drolet. He adds, “In a lot of cases, we know 100% that something happened, but it just—you don’t have the last piece you need to connect the case.”

DEA VICTIM PICDEA Assistant Special Agent Jon DeLena spearheaded a comprehensive law and order partnership to better tackle these cases—especially those resulting in death.

“There are ways to put these cases together if we work together,” says DeLena. He adds, “Everybody has gone all in on this.”

That includes the DEA, the US Attorney for New Hampshire, the Attorney General’s Office, New Hampshire State Police, New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, and local law enforcement.

“We’re all committed to doing it and doing it right,” says DeLena.

The first step to doing it right—training. NH1 News was invited into this closed-door, standing-room only seminar for law enforcement from across the state.

“Over 400 detectives in a room, looking, trying to learn, why? Because in 2016, we’ve got this many people dying of heroin and fentanyl overdoses,” says Quinn.

They’re learning that in these often chaotic rescue scenes, officers need to think like homicide detectives.  Instead of a knife or gun, the deadly weapon is a needle. These officers have a lot of obstacles, and not a lot of time to recover the evidence they must have to make a case.

Quinn says, “How do we take a cell phone from a victim? How do you look to see who’s the last call? Is there information there that ties the source and supplier to the dealer? What type of questions do you ask? Where do you do the interview?”

And if they need help—DEA’s response team and prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office are just a phone call away.

“They’re available to jump 24 hours a day,” says DeLena.

FINAL Ben Agati
Ben Agati, Senior Assistant Attorney General

Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati says those calls for help and guidance are already coming in.

“I can tell you in the time we’re sitting down talking now, I’ve had six new ones in the last 24 hours that have come in,” says Agati. He adds, “And so the numbers that we’re talking about and the number of agencies we’re trying to help, it’s a massive logistical issue. But it’s one I think we’ve got a plan that we can tackle.”

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Céline McArthur interviews U.S. Attorney for NH Emily Rice

“I think we’re going to find, when we get to the end of 2016, that law enforcement has done an outstanding job in really holding the line and bringing bigger and bigger case. And with the help of this training, and the public’s help, I expect that we’ll see many, many more prosecutions for overdose deaths in the coming months,” says Emily Rice, U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 6.06.06 PMThe public’s help is key. You will soon see this image on billboards in New Hampshire. All of the law enforcement leaders you just heard from say they need your cooperation to the get the drugs and the dealers off our streets.

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Web Extra: Training Day

I had a GoPro on the podium during the training to capture the opening comments from the leaders who came together to provide this law enforcement training. Here are a few clips from the session:

DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jon DeLena:

Attorney General Joseph Foster:

U.S. Attorney Emily Rice:

Executive Major David Parenteau, NH State Police:

Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success: 900 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria

Coming up tonight on NH1 News at 10….

“There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to owning a restaurant. It’s very difficult, but it’s also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.” – Priscilla Lane-Rondeau, 900 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria

 

 

Nine years ago, Priscilla Lane-Rondeau opened 900 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria in Manchester. Six years later, she added a second place in Epping. While she didn’t grow up dreaming of opening up her own restaurants, she’s always had a passion for great food.

STEC final edited pic for web“I love food, I am a big foodie. I grew up on a small farm in New Ipswich, New Hampshire and we had the garden, the vegetables, and so I always just ate really well.”

And now, so can you. We asked Priscilla to serve up some of her best Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success.

Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success:

  • Show up for your customers
  • Be willing and able to do everything
  • Focus on what you do best and hire for the rest
  • Research the competition
  • Give back to the community

Click here to see all our Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success segments.


Connect with Priscilla Lane-Rondeau and 900 Degrees Neopolitan Pizzeria:

www.900degrees.com
info@900degrees.com


If you have a business you’d like to nominate, please fill out the form below or you can connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

On the radio: Sue over a negative review?

We continue our investigative series this week, with the goal of continuing to drive change in New Hampshire. So far, we’ve been able to expose a little-known problem called the “non-disparagement clause” in consumer contracts, get Home Advisor to drop contractor Joshua Garfinkle from its referral site, and help families get compensation and legal guidance. Now, we’re looking to drive legislative change. Listen in!

 

 

Sue over a negative review? NH1 gets answers. Part 3!

“It’s ripping people off. I don’t understand how you don’t feel bad about yourself? Knowing you’re ripping people off and you’re doing a bad job,” says Homeowner Laura Lacroix.

final story the couple lacroixAnother New Hampshire family breaking their silence… sharing their story about a local contractor they say not only ripped them off but is also trying to silence them with a non-disparagement clause – or gag order – in the fine print of their contract.

We bring you their stories tonight. We track down the contractor and we’ll show you how our investigation is driving positive change.

For Laura and Matthew Lacroix, renovating the basement of their Merrimack home was one of the last projects on their to-do list.

“We’re talking walls, doors, outlets, ceiling—basic no plumbing.”

Through the referral site Home Advisor, they hired contractor and volunteer firefighter Joshua Garfinkle and things begin on a positive note.

final story garfinkle firefighter.jpg

“He was very pleasant in the beginning.”

But soon after work began on the two-week, $14,000 project, the Lacroix’s noticed some major safety issues.

“For me, it was the electrician. I don’t want to say that he didn’t know what he was talking about, but he’s just seemed like he always had to do research on something.”

For Laura, it was the stairs…

final story staircase

“When things start popping into my head and I start reaching out to Josh about various things and he starts exploding – either through email or through voice messages and it would just be brutal,” says Matthew.

“It’s ridiculous. He would say things that make you feel like you’re such a bad person,” says Laura.

What Laura and Matt couldn’t get from Garfinkle was a straight answer to an important but basic question: Are you doing the job up to code?

“He never responded to email and he never responded directly to the question,” says Matthew.

“No one ever came in to the house to inspect,” says Laura.

The Lacroix’s shared their frustration on Facebook, not realizing they signed a contract with that dreaded gag order, the non-disparagement clause.

“That’s sneaky. I read the contract,” says Laura. She adds, “I didn’t know what a non-disparagement means.”

Following our interview, the Lacroix’s decided to call in the town building inspector.

Turns out, their fears were justified.

final story building inspector“So this building inspector, having now gone through indicating that the wiring placement is wrong for electrical, the outlets are not to code, the stairway landing is not to code, the balusters are not to code, and the handrail is not done to code,” says Attorney Jim Steiner.

Which—according to Attorney Jim Steiner—means that it was Garfinkle who violated the Lacroix’s contract.final story contract

A contract Steiner believes wouldn’t hold up in court anyway—with the 75-hundred dollar minimum penalty for her Facebook review.

“It’s the kind of liquidated damages that the court would reject because it’s not tied to anything, any rational basis,” says Steiner. He adds, “This is somebody who can act as a general contractor because we don’t have licensing requirements for a general contractor and is trying to sneak in under the radar, do work without disclosing it to the building inspector, do it not to code, get some money and run off leave the homeowner in the fix.”

FINAL STORY 4 SHOT.jpgFor the Lacroix’s and all of the families who have asked us—on and off camera—for help to get answers, we went looking for Garfinkle.

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His home and business addresses in Salisbury and Canterbury—listed on court and other public records documents aren’t—current.

FINAL STORY DON NASON.jpgOne is vacant, the other sold at auction months ago. But with the help of Private Investigator Don Nason, we finally tracked him down.

final story celine talking to garfinkle 2“Joshua Garfinkle, Celine McArthur, NH1 News. I’d like to talk to you about the non-disparagement clauses you have in your contracts. Why do you feel you need them? (No response) Some of your clients feel like it squashes their constitutional right to free speech. (No response. Garfinkle gets into his car and slowly tries to pull out of driveway) Some customers say they’re worried for their personal safety and financial security because of threats you’ve made on text messages and voicemail. (Garfinkle backing up car) Do you think this is conduct appropriate of a New Hampshire entrepreneur and first responder?  Do you have anything you want to say? (Garfinkle drives off)

final story celine talking to car“What could he say that wouldn’t get him in trouble,” says Steiner. He adds, “What it suggests is someone who is willing to go to a couple of different degrees of deception to hide from a disgruntled customer, to hide from any kind of official inquiry, to hide from being discovered because it appears that he has a lot to run from.”

final story 2 shot with steiner.jpg “There are a lot of things to find on Joshua Garfinkle—you have to be looking for them,” says Nason.

Another unsatisfied customer in New Hampshire – Melody Smith—says she was recently awarded a judgement of more than 5 thousand dollars in small claims court. Garfinkle hasn’t paid, so a warrant for his arrest is in the works. Digging deeper, we discovered that he’s been arrested twice—once for driving with a suspended license in an unregistered car. The other—on a warrant for issuing bad checks.

final story garfinkle mug 1“Sometimes you don’t know people as well as you think you know them,” says Nason.

“Without exposing him, he can just run amuck around the state of new Hampshire or elsewhere in New England,” says Steiner.

And for the Lacroix’s, they hope this story will force referral sites—including Home Advisor—to change the way they operate.

“It’s unacceptable. It’s the whole purpose of your site. People can go and find trusting contractors for people to work on their homes, their yards, that’s what we depend on sites like that for,” says Laura. Matthew adds, “It’s a loophole in their website. It’s a massive loophole.”

Thanks to our story – Home Advisor says “Josh Garfinkle has been terminated from our network and we are working with the affected homeowners.” Plus, “We are adding a clause to our T&C’s that prohibit service professionals from requiring non-disparagement clauses in homeowner contracts.” Do you have something you want me to investigate? Send me an email or message on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Sue over a negative review? NH1 News gets answers and results: Part 2

“This kind of story reaches into every corner of the state of new Hampshire. Middle class people who have bought homes and are trying to make some kind of improvement to their homes, need to have the kind of comfort and protection of knowing that the contractor they hire is somebody who is going to be reputable. Your work is exposing the fraudulent ones out there and they’ve got to be exposed.” –Jim Steiner, Attorney

Steiner for part 2.jpgTonight, we continue our NH1 News Investigation – Sue for a negative review?

The issue – non disparagement clauses, or gag orders, in contracts.

We first told you about a woman who was scared into silence by a contractor who took her money but didn’t do the job.

She came to us, pleading for help to warn you about that little-known practice.

Acting on a tip, we found the contractor and other homeowners who say the same thing happened to them.

Some too afraid to talk to us on the record—but not all.

That led us on a hunt for answers.

“You need to trust your contractor. You need to assume that that person is going to come in and do the right thing. To have people like that out there, that have no intention of doing the right thing. They just want your money and that’s got to stop,” says Homeowner Linda Lavallee.

linda for part 2Linda loves to buy and renovate homes, taking plenty of pride in the finished product.

“It’s exciting, we do our work to code, we make sure that they’re safe houses, I’d like to think that may grandchildren could live there. 22:12 and it’s a safe place.”

She hired contractor Joshua Garfinkle and his company, NHCRS to do some of the work and liked her first impression.

garfinkle graphic“He appears to be a nice man, an honorable man, an honest man, a hard-working man,” says Linda.

Her opinion changed after she says Garfinkle botched her kitchen floor…

“It was a tripping hazard, an actual tripping hazard.”

… And failed to properly fix a support beam under a bathtub.

floor joist for part 2.jpg“Josh claims that he did the floor joist repair to code. Multiple times he was asked if it was done to code, and he responded it was to code,” says Linda. She adds, “Only when I had a building inspector come in—he said no way, that’s not to code.”

“What would happen if some little kid was in the bathtub and the floor gives way? It could happen!”

crazy text for part 3When challenged, Linda says Garfinkle became combative in text messages and deceptive in emails—including this one claiming to be from Sanford Fenster from NHCRS “Contracts and Compliance.” There was one problem with that message.

“I later found out that the person who wrote the letter has been deceased for over seven years,” says Linda.

So, Linda hired a lawyer, but she didn’t get far.

“By the time I paid the attorney to find out that there was nothing I could do, and on top of the monies that I had already paid him and the monies I had to spend in order to fix what he had done, it was a huge amount of money,” says Linda.

montage of damage for part 2.jpgAbout 7 thousand dollars in all. She’s moved on, but not before filing a report with the Better Business Bureau and writing a review on the NHCRS Facebook page. Turns out, Linda’s contract did not include the gag order.

“He obviously had enough issues with people complaining and trying to verbalize their complaints that he had to find a way to stop them. And apparently, he found a way,” says Linda.

She only agreed to share her story—on camera—to help others who can’t.

“It’s a nightmare and he has to be stopped! It’s only because of this woman –with her hands tied—who can’t do anything to get her money back, and can’t do anything to stop him from doing it to someone else—that I’m willing to do this,” says Linda.

Up next—we track down Garfinkle to get some answers. We’ll also show you how our investigation is already driving positive change.

 

 

Sue over a negative review? NH1 News gets answers and results: PROMO

If you rely on customer reviews when you hire someone or buy something online, then you’ll want to watch this investigation. What we discovered in the fine print of one NH contractor’s contract, may have you wondering if you’re getting the full picture on sites like Amazon, Yelp, Home Advisor and Angie’s List. The two-part series: Wednesday and Thursday night on NH1 News at 10 on WBIN-TV.

Start here: Sue over a negative review? What you need to know.

 

Sue over a negative review? What you need to know.

“The consumer wants to have confidence that when they review these sites, what they’re getting is honest feedback.” – Jim Steiner, Attorney

With technology at our fingertips, chances are you rely on customer reviews—the good and the bad—to help to you decide what to buy or who to hire. One New Hampshire woman says she was scared into silence by a contractor she says took her money but didn’t do the job.

imageTurns out, the woman signed a contract, which—in the fine print at the bottom—states that she can’t say or post anything negative about her experience–even if she’s telling the truth.

If this non-disparagement clause sounds familiar—like you’ve seen it on TV recently—it may be because Donald Trump used it with at least one of his campaign workers. Here’s a clip from a CNN story: 

Jeanne Moos/CNN: “Some have speculated that Corey Lewandowski couldn’t say anything bad because…..”

Lewandowski: It’s been an honor and a privilege.

Trump: “I think Corey is terrific…”

Lewandowski: “I am so thankful for this chance….”

Jeanne Moos/CNN: “Because he signed this confidentiality agreement with a no-disparagement clause, you hereby promise and agree not to demean or disparage publicly the company, Mr. Trump, any Trump company.”

Afraid of being sued, the New Hampshire woman called us hoping to find a way to warn others who may be looking for a contractor do home renovations. We went through the contract with our legal expert Jim Steiner. While you may think this woman is protected by the First Amendment, Steiner says this unscrupulous person’s right to free speech would likely cost her a lengthy legal battle.

 “This kind of clause might be deemed enforceable because it has at least been written to go both ways between a customer and the contractor,” says Attorney Jim Steiner.

Fair or not, these contracts can stand up in court.

“Both of us agree to this so there’s valid consideration, so when you contract away your right to say negative things about me, I have contracted away my right to say negative things about you,” says Steiner.

And even in the right, this woman could still be a lawsuit target.

“Could that person sue her for defamation? The answer is yes. Unfortunately, after months and months, could she be found not to be liable because what she said was substantially true? That answer is yes, but nobody wants to go through either hiring a lawyer or trying on their own to prove the truth,” says Steiner.

That’s why we’re not identifying the woman.

We are sharing what we can because this no-negative review clause is a serious issue.

So serious, that the United States Senate recently passed Senate Bill 2044 – The Consumer Review Freedom Act – that would make those clauses illegal if they muzzle fair comment.

“It would free consumers to make honest reports on an Angie’s List, other kinds of filtering reporting service, free from any potential liability,” says Steiner.

It went to the House in December 2015. That’s where it remains tonight. The House introduced a bill with the same purpose in April. While lawmakers hash this out, Steiner says consumer review sites should do more to educate people on businesses that have—and enforce—these clauses that stifle negative customer reviews.

“Maybe the filtering company – like an Angie’s List – ought to indicate that we will not allow vendors who require these non-disparagement clauses in their contracts to be included,” says Steiner.

I contacted Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Amazon, Yelp and the Better Business Bureau to find out what their policies are on hosting reviews for businesses who operate this way.

  • From Angie’s List:  “In the type of situation you’ve described, we would consider this a “gag order” and this is prohibited through our policies for service providers listed on Angie’s List.”
  • From HomeAdvisor: “We highly discourage that practice from our pros and if we find out about it, we will consider terminating that pro from our network. Additionally, if a homeowner has signed an agreement like that, we disregard it and will post the review.”
  • From Yelp: “We don’t have any systematic way of knowing if a business has non-disparagement clause in a service agreement, but when these are brought to our attention by users who have faced legal action, we may place a legal alert on that business’ page.”
  • Better Business Bureau: “Businesses that do use them may find this information disclosed on their BBB Business Review on bbb.org so that potential customers are warned of the practice. BBB Accredited Businesses cannot use such clauses under the “BBB Code of Business Practices.”

If you’ve had a negative experience with a contractor—or any business—and you want it made public, Steiner says you can file a lawsuit.

“When you initiate a lawsuit against a defendant in court, you have an immunity for being sued for defamation. As long as what… it’s assumed what you’re saying is truthful. Substantial truth will win out over the clause,” says Steiner.

We will continue to follow this story for you. We also want to hear what you think about the non-disparagement clause.  Take the poll on NH1.com.  Also, send me an email me or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter to keep this important conversation going.

 

 

Addiction Front Lines: Case Closed?

“I want the person who took my brother’s life to pay. He gave, he sold that to my brother. He should pay. My brother paid with his life.” – Brooke Shepard, Manchester

We continue our special series Addiction Front Lines series with a plea from a grieving sister, whose little brother, 22-year-old Dylan Nicolas Shepard, died of a heroin-fentanyl overdose one year, one month and 22 days ago in Manchester. Brooke Shepard and her family desperately want the person who sold him the drugs off the streets. They say they know who it is, but the police case is closed.They asked us to find out why.

 “His name is Dylan Nicolas Shepard…”

 “He overdosed and passed away…”

 “He was 22 when it happened.”

 “I will never forget that day in my life.”

 “He went out to a bar with a friend that he considered one of his best friends. He hadn’t seen him for almost a year.”

 “When they left the club, they walked to a nearby apartment.”

 “They both did their stuff and my brother went upstairs to the bathroom. And his friend –who he did it with – stayed downstairs.”

 “The kid downstairs started breathing all messed up. His brother was there, his brother was shaking him, I guess.”

 “The cops came, the ambulance, they went to him first. Meanwhile my brother was upstairs, passing away. By the time they got upstairs, it was too late.”

 “I feel like there’s no justice. I feel like nothing’s been done. My brother deserves justice. He paid with his life. Now why can’t the other people pay?”

Brooke says the man who sold her brother the drugs confessed to her—in front of dozens of witnesses—just hours after Dylan died. According to the police report, that man told investigators he didn’t use or sell drugs.

“All I can picture is him saying it, that’s what he said exactly. I did, I did.” As she wipes away the tears, she asks, “Why isn’t my word enough?”

Trial attorney Paul Monzione says the answer to that simple question is complicated.

“An admission is powerful evidence. It really is,” says Monzione. He adds, “And it’s admissible evidence. The problem is beyond the one witness—the sister of the victim—testifying that the alleged dealer admitted it to her, it’s a ‘he said she said’ situation that doesn’t meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if there are other corroborating witnesses, objective people who were present, I would expect that a prosecutor would want to have those witnesses come to court and then let the jury decide.”

Monzione says another challenge is a lack of evidence.

“You don’t have witnesses that are available, evidence goes away, and people leave. When someone overdoses, if people are present, you’re going to expect that they’re not going to stick around,” says Monzione.

I also asked Sergeant Chris Sanders with Manchester PD’s Street Crime Unit to weigh in.

“Death resulting cases are very difficult to prosecute,” says Sanders.  He adds, “They have to prove if the drugs were bought from that person. And, that the drugs that they took from that person, are what caused the death. So, they didn’t mix the drug with something else, they didn’t already have something else in their system. They didn’t put something into the drug when they got home.”

Both Sanders and Monzione say there is still a way to get the drug dealers off the streets and bring the victim’s families some closure.

“Someone always knows what’s going on. Somebody is always in the circle of people that are committing the crime,” says Sanders.

“It’s not an easy thing to do. This problem is not easy for anybody, but I think if it’s going to go away, these are the circumstances under which we’re asked to step up. And I think people have to take it very seriously and be willing to be witnesses, to testify to help law enforcement, to help prosecutors do the right thing by the victims,” says Monzione.

“My brother is worth it. He’s worth it. He deserves justice. My mother deserves justice for what happened to her son,” says Brooke.

If you have any information on the overdose death of Dylan Shepard, call the Manchester PD’s Crimeline – at 603-624-4040.

Stay tuned for more of our coverage from the Addiction Front Lines. If you want to be part of the conversation, share your story with me. Send me an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.

 

On the Frontlines: The Children of the Drug Crisis

For nearly a year, we’ve been on the front lines of the drug crisis to show you how police and policy makers are trying to combat the drug problem.

What you haven’t seen is the impact the crisis is having on the young people in the community – young people using, young people exposed to people using and young people dealing. It’s the ugly truth first responders—from Manchester PD’s Street Crime unit and American Medical Response—deal with every day.

For 21-year-old Cody Ferry, having a place to do laundry is a luxury. Cody’s been homeless for nearly two years.

When he’s not visiting Manchester’s Youth Resource Center, he’s on the streets, begging for money, so he can buy a spot on a couch for the night from someone he calls his “street brother.”

“If I don’t come home with money I have to stay outside. If I do come home with money then I can stay inside,” says Cody.

He’s also pleading for opportunity.

“I heard maybe three or four times, get a [expletive] job,” says Cody. “Well, how am I supposed to get a job if nobody wants to give me that opportunity to get experience, to get a job? It’s just a vicious cycle that will never end. Manchester sucks.”

Cody’s struggles on the streets of Manchester began when he started using drugs.

“My drug of choice? Crystal meth. I’ve been addicted to it for almost four years now,” says Cody.

He describes the appeal of a meth high.

“I like the shadow people are cool. You’re supposed to look at them as friends,” says Cody. He adds, “They’re just figures, [waving his hand past the side of his face] shadow figures that go past your vision. I don’t know. I don’t like the drug. There’s part of me that likes it, there’s part of me that loves it. Then there’s part of me that hates it.”

What Cody hates even more is how he had to pay for those drugs.

“To be honest, I used to sell myself to male prostitutes to support my habit,” says Cody. He adds, “Pretty degrading, I know, but it is what it is. You can’t make friends lying, right? You have to be honest with people. So, I’m being honest with you.”

Cody says there are many others like him on the Queen City streets.

“People should help us because we’re really going downhill. Because most of us are probably going to end up dead.”

“Drug addiction is all around us. Just as I am driving the neighborhood right now, I could pick out five or six people right now that are strung out on heroin of some kind,” says Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard. He adds, “I’ve poured so much of my sweat equity in this fight, and when we’re having a record number in February… I don’t know what I am doing. I hate to tell you, it’s frustrating, deflating,” says Willard. “I am at a point, this is the most discouraging, um, thing I’ve ever experienced.”

This, while Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard says the Street Crime Unit is still working hard every day to clean up the streets. So far this year, the Unit’s made 179 drug arrests—152 for possession and 27 for sales. That’s an average of less than two arrest per day.

“It’s a mess, it’s a big mess,” says Chris Stawatz, Regional Director, American Medical Response. He adds, “I don’t know if we’re going to solve it, but we definitely have to control it.”

Stawatz says the number of suspected opioid overdose calls they’ve responded to are on track to quadruple this year over 2013!

swastika picOn this night, AMR crews are called to an overdose at a Cedar Street home where a 36-year old man is found unresponsive, and sadly, not alone.

“There were a number of children there that from all different age, like 3 to 14 years old plus other family members,” says Rocco Caprarello, Station Manager, American Medical Response.

After receiving six doses of Narcan to revive him, the man – and a three-year old girl who may have picked up and pricked herself with his drug needle – are taken to a local hospital.

“It’s sad, you know, especially when there are kids involved,” says Caprarello. He adds, “The kids seem to be dealing with it well. I mean, it makes you think, is this something that is commonplace for them? When this happens, they just go on with their lives.”

And then there are those, like Cody, who are willing to share their stories, their struggles to drive change.

“We should all help each other, you know? There are some people out there that help, you know, but there needs to be more people that show, you know, care-ness,” says Cody.

This is just part one of our series ON THE FRONTLINES – Children in Crisis. As we continue to bring you these stories, we want to hear from you. Do you have a story you want to tell? Questions you want our leaders to answer? Email me or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll keep this important conversation going.contact celine graphic

Predictive Policing

MANCHESTER – Police and policy makers – including the white house drug czar – were in New Hampshire Monday trying to find ways to tackle the heroin crisis.

To really understand it, you need to see it first-hand.

That’s where the Manchester Police Department comes in.

They offered a walking tour of the city’s heroin hotspots. Including a downtown area where three active drugs houses were recently shut down.

And now, the police has a new weapon in its arsenal to fight crime.

30-year-old Officer Matthew Barter fights crime in the Queen City, but his weapon is a computer, not a gun.

He’s a Manchester Police Department crime analyst.

His strategy – stop the crimes before they happen using what’s called predictive analytics.

In the 10 weeks the program’s been running, the police said robberies are down 24 percent. Burglaries are down 13 percent, and motor vehicle thefts are down 34 percent.

“It’s the same technology that Amazon uses to tell you what you should purchase next CUT,” Barter said. “That’s what we’re using to leverage in the policing world to identify where crimes are going to happen.”

The right areas may seem obvious – but the timing? That’s the science of stats.

“We take the city of Manchester, and we grid it out into five hundred square foot blocks,” Barter said. “For each one of those blocks, we look at which of those crimes happened here in the past few weeks, what are all the crimes that happened here in the past few weeks.

Is there an uptick in overall crime in this 500 square foot block? What happened during the same time last year?

The results?

“This past week, we had 60 percent accuracy in forecasting for those crimes within 500 feet of where we predicted it.”

Chief Nick Willard says the proof is in the numbers.

“It’s cutting edge policing is what it is,” he said.

But for Barter, it’s all in a day’s work.

So today, when the talk is all about heroin, this is an important process for the police. About 80 to 85 percent of property crimes in Manchester are heroin related.

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Active Shooter Training Part 2: Empowering local businesses + BONUS VID

MANCHESTER – Thursday night we showed you how the Manchester Police Department is training its own to handle active shooter situations – like the deadly attacks in San Bernardino, California and Paris – to name just two. These cases have a growing number of employers concerned about the safety of their workers. That’s where the Manchester Police Departments steps in with potentially life-saving training.

“The first thing that ran into my head is how is Manchester going to deal with this? How are our local business going to react? Are they going to want presentations? Are they going to want training? The answer is yes. We’ve been getting a lot of requests for training,” said Officer Nathan Linstad.

“This is the very, very, very tip of the iceberg. We train all the time. We’re always training, we’re always trying to find out what the trends are, and trying to do what we can to stop them,” said Linstad.

Officer Linstad – and the Manchester Police Department – use that intelligence to better prepare themselves to handle violent and deadly encounters. They will also share their expertise with local businesses and organizations that want to be able to better protect themselves against active shooters.

“They need to get the training, where it could be anything. It could be a true active shooter event, it could be just a workplace violence situation where someone had been fired comes back… or a domestic situation,” said Linstad.

He adds, “It’s just training. We’re not going to come in there and do anything crazy. People won’t be running around jumping over desks or anything. We come in, we talk about concepts, we talk about what you do if this scenario happens,” said Linstad. “Time is of the essence. And the faster you act, the less damage there is, whether it’s personal property or people.”

“Anything you can do to protect your employees is a good thing,” said Dan Fortin, President & CEO, Breathe New Hampshire.

Fortin arranged the training for his staff in Manchester shortly after the San Bernardino attack.

“I think it’s comforting. I mean, obviously, the realities of what this all represents is sort of scary, but I think I’m more aware and hope my staff is a little more comfortable and secure with themselves in terms of their actions and what they do or don’t do in the case of an emergency,” said Fortin. “I realize there’s a small probability of something happening, but I’d just as soon see them all safe and being prepared to do whatever they have to do take care of themselves.”

You can learn more about the training by calling the Manchester Police Department at (603) 668-8711.

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Active Shooter Training Part 1

MANCHESTER – The brutal killings in Paris and San Bernardino, California are just some of most recent attacks that are driving potentially life-saving conversations about active shooters. Specifically, how police are training to handle these situations and what we all can do to increase our chances of survival.

“The first thing that ran into my head is how is Manchester going to deal with this?” Officer Nathan Linstad of the Manchester Police Department said.

In part one of our two-part series, “Training Day” – we show you how the Manchester Police Department is preparing officers for an event they hope never happens.

“You have to be ready as a city, and as a state and as a country,” Linstad said.

A middle school in the city of Manchester, closed for winter break, was ground zero for one of the Manchester Police Department’s most critical and timely exercises: Active Shooter Training.

“In a school, using actual classrooms, so you’re seeing the kids’ drawings on their desks, and you’re seeing the drawings up on the walls, and you’re trying to get that full effect of the training,” Linstad said. “You’re not just training for your child, you’re training for everybody’s children.”

On this day, 25 officers were wearing helmets and body armor, armed with modified handguns or rifles designed to shoot paint balls, search for active shooters played by SWAT team instructors.

“We try to make it as realistic as possible,” Linstad said. “We try to get people’s heart rates elevated. We try to give them a little bit of an adrenaline rush, because that’s real. Each officer plays both a good guy and a bad guy. You want to see it from the opposite angle.”

The training is intense, aggressive – and fast – because the average active shooter situation lasts just three-to-five minutes.

“It’s a long time if you’re in that building, but it’s not a lot of time if you’re calling a SWAT team, so that patrol officer, or the school resource officer, or the detective that is out on the street at the time, they’re more than likely going to be there within that three minutes, so they’re going to have to deal with the situation,” Linstad said.

If they can’t, lives – many lives – can be lost.

“If you enter a building and you hear shots being fired, you have to understand that each bullet represents a life. A life could be taken for every shot,” Linstad said.

We recorded a lot of video for this story – video the Manchester Police Department asked us for, so they can use it as a training tool so they can get even better.

On Friday night, we’ll show you how the department is offering training for local business and organizations that want to better protect their employees.

It’s truly information that can help protect you and your family.

NH1 News Exclusive: Manchester Police Chief shares his mission to wipe our heroin and improve race relations

The Manchester Police Department is launching an aggressive war on heroin. It’s one of—if not the biggest—contributor to crime in the Queen City.

In an NH1 News exclusive, MPD’s top cop talks about his mission to clean up the city.

It’s been a while since Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard patrolled the streets—as an officer—but that doesn’t stop him from driving or walking his way through some of the Queen city’s roughest neighborhoods.

“You have to assess it in real time. You can’t sit behind your desk and lead,” says Willard

As Manchester’s newest leader, his main focus—wiping out the heroin problem.

“When we go to Little League fields and sweep it for needles about an hour before game time, before the kids are to report, you know, that’s telling and it’s sad, really sad,” says Willard.

“Every call that officers go on now, any person that they deal with—particularly if the person is an offender that’s taken into custody—the officer’s first priority, aside from the person having a weapon, is to check whether or not they have a needle on them,” says Willard.

It’s a serious health and safety issue for police and for the community. 80 to 85 percent of police calls for property crimes in Manchester are heroin related.

“So they start stealing from their family, they start writing bad checks. It leads to property crimes. It evolves into burglaries, and when it gets so desperate, and the addict has gotten to the point that their addiction requires a certain amount of drugs, that’s when they start committing robberies, because they need as much money as they can, as quickly as they can to feed their habit and that’s the dangers of it. That’s like the anatomy of a drug addict,” says Willard.

As he explains—a call comes in. An attempted robbery at a Dunkin Donuts.

As police search for a man armed a knife, Willard shares his second goal for his tenure as Chief of MPD—build a stronger relationship between the people and police.

With the increase in high-profile deadly police encounters across the country, he knows it’s a challenge.

“In certain neighborhoods, there are certain individuals who have certain experiences with law enforcement that we’ll never cross that … trust. They’re not going to think you’re anything but worthless or a thug,” says Willard.

But that doesn’t keeping him from trying to change that narrative, one conversation at a time.

Stay tuned to NH1.com for more from Chief Willard’s interview and ride through Manchester.

Chief Willard Goes to Washington (Part 2)

Manchester’s Police Chief Nick Willard in Washington DC testifying before Congress about the opioid crisis in New Hampshire. We take you inside the hearing to show you how Willard—and other New Hampshire leaders— are campaigning for federal help.

Everyone inside the hearing—Lawmakers, law enforcement, medical experts and victim’s families—in today’s hearing all know that there is a problem. The goal—to come to a consensus on why it’s so bad and how the federal government should support – i.e. – fund law enforcement and public health programs across the country to finally get a grip on the crisis.

“At today’s hearing the committee hopes to learn more about this terrible epidemic,” says Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee.

That’s why the Senate Judiciary Committee turned to New Hampshire leaders for guidance.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire, (R).

“We are losing more than one person a day,” says U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire, (D).

“We are dealing with the throws of human tragedy everyday, but it’s still a wonderful state,” says Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard.

Senators Ayotte and Shaheen, along with and Chief Willard all making it clear: The statistics in NH are staggering. Willard breaks down the numbers for the Queen City.

2013: 14 fatal overdoses. 30% heroin and 7% a combination of heroin+fentanyl

2014: 19 fatal overdoses, 22% heroin. 22% heroin +fentanyl and 21% fentanyl alone

2015: 69 fatal overdoses, 33% fentanyl, 26 % fentanyl + cocaine, and 9% fentanyl +heroin.

“We’re finding the vast majority of folks who are suffering from this disease won’t hurt you, they’ll hurt themselves,” says Governor Peter Schumlin, Vermont (D).

Governor Schumlin from neighboring Vermont arguing that the epidemic stems from a decades-long evolution of how people treat pain. Most of the committee and speakers—agreed.

“The FDA, pharma industry the dirty docs, we don’t have to go to the border here to see the source of opioids,” says Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois (D).

“What we haven’t really talked about is medical schools. It is my understanding that most medical schools don’t have any courses on prescribing medication and recognizing drug abuse.,” says Shaheen.

“When New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, the three states in the prescription of the top five pain medications and —per capita—those same three states are the top of five for heroin abuse, I don’t know what methodology they just but it’s certainly not common sense,” says Willard.

Once addicted, Willard argues that the steady of supply of drugs like heroin and fentanyl from outside the US are hampering police efforts.

“So the addiction pool—I agree—needs to shrink because we need to lessen the demand, but the supply most urgently needs to be reduced with great interdiction effort,” says Willard. He adds, “I will say it—our border is a sieve.”

He’s hoping the federal government will fund law enforcement initiatives—like Operation Granite Hammer—to finally get a grip on the crisis.

The hearing lasted an unexpected four hours, with the majority of the Senators on the committee absent. I asked Willard if he still thought his testimony would drive any change.

All I can do is hope so,” says Willard. He adds, “The more we talk about it, the quicker we’ll have change. We just need people to get behind what that change is going to be.”

So, what’s next? Senator Ayotte hopes the committee votes out—The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—that would go to the senate floor and hopefully become national legislation that would help communities in nh and across the country.

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