State and city officials, standing alongside first responders, announced legislation Tuesday that would provide state funding for drug courts across New Hampshire.
The bill aims to spend up to $2.5 million on existing and future drug courts over the next two years, with half a million dollars going to a new statewide drug court office.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, who is sponsoring the bill, said at a press conference Tuesday that the rest of the cost will have to be picked up by the individual host county, but participation is voluntary.
The bill will be debated by the Legislature in January and, if passed, could free up funding as early as February. Bradley said he is confident this idea will receive bipartisanship support, including from the governor.
In a statement, Gov. Maggie Hassan said, "I look forward to working with legislators from both parties and other stakeholders on this important effort to establish new drug courts."
Judge Kenneth Brown, who would preside over a drug court in Manchester if the funding is approved, said the drug court model works.
“If they graduate and we expect that they will, they are going to be returning to society as a productive member as opposed to someone who was a drain on our society,” Brown said, adding that drug courts lead to lower recidivism rates and cost savings.
So far there are drug courts in Nashua and in Cheshire, Grafton, Rockingham and Strafford Counties. The Hillsborough County Delegation in June rejected a plan to fully fund a drug court in Manchester.
Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard said drug courts save money.
“If we save one life through drug court, that’s one life that the Manchester fire department and a firefighter is not saving; it's one less call for service or Narcan use that AMR will have to use; it's one less call the Manchester Police Department is going to be taxed with,” Willard said.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas said the city can’t wait any longer.
"I look for speedy legislation in both the House and the Senate…because I will be calling,” Gatsas said.