Gatsas sees ‘Safe Station’ as a viable statewide model for bridging treatment gap

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safe station

MANCHESTER, NH – Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas on Thursday issued a statement in response to the recent announcement that Manchester’s opiate overdose numbers for May appear to be showing a decline from last month, a fact which Gatsas attributes in large part to the success of the Manchester Safe Station program.

Tym Rourke
Tym Rourke

In fact, Gatsas has invited Tym Rourke, who chairs the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment, to hold the board’s June 24 regular meeting in Manchester, so the city can showcase how the program works. The goal would be finding funding to replicate Safe Stations as a statewide initiative [see the full letter from Gatsas to Rourke below.]

According to a fact sheet generated June 1 by Christopher Hickey, Manchester Fire Department EMS Officer, the number of overdoses MFD responded to in May of 2016 indicate a drop from the previous four months [See the full fact sheet below].

However, compared to the total overdoses for the same time period in 2015, the numbers are up [333 in 2016 to 261 in 2015.]

Still, it feels like progress, says Hickey.

“May 2016 is the lowest month for 2016, and our third lowest month in the last calendar year.  It’s the first month in 2016 we responded to fewer than 60 suspected ODs.  So far in June we have only had two – which is unheard of since I began keeping stats in 2014.  We are actually getting entire days when we don’t have any,” Hickey says. “I’m not hanging my hat on Safe Station being the only cause of the drop but things on the early outset look promising.”

  • Jan. 2016: 61 OD (6 fatal) compared to Jan. 2015: 55 OD (6 fatal)
  • Feb. 2016: 62 OD (14 fatal – most ever) compared to Feb. 2015: 33 OD (5 fatal)
  • March 2016: 77 OD (11 fatal) compared to March 2015: 63 OD (11 fatal)
  • April 2016: 77 OD (11 fatal) compared to April 2015: 64 OD (8 fatal)
  • May 2016: 56 OD (8 fatal) compared to May 2015: 46 OD (7 fatal)

Manchester Fire Department began providing the Safe Station service on May 4 to those suffering from Substance Misuse Disorder. The purpose of the program is to provide a starting point to aid in the treatment and recovery from opiate and drug addiction, providing a bridge to connect those interested in help with local outreaches available and able to provide services. Just walk into any Manchester Fire Station and ask.

Through a partnership with Granite United Way and Safe Station, calls can also be placed by anyone in need via 2-1-1 in New Hampshire.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 7.42.31 PMBetween May 16 – 24th:

  •  2-1-1 NH took 718 calls, of which
  • 26 calls were directly connected to HOPE for NH Recovery.

HOPE for NH Recovery connected callers to:

  • Residential Drug Treatment Programs
  • Hope for NH Recovery Coaching and Intensive Outpatient Clinics
  • Referrals to Safe Stations (Note) Six of the individuals were also homeless

2-1-1 Call totals since the May 4 launch totals:

  • 211NH has received 1,491 calls
  • 87 callers have been directly connected to HOPE for NH Recovery
  • 60 clients were seen at Manchester firehouses by HOPE Counselors

Safe Station, by the numbers:
  • Number of requests at MFD for Safe Station:  87
  • Number of participants placed within the Hope System: 71 (known)
  • Number of participants transported to Hospitals: 10
  • Average Length of Time MFD Company “Not Available”: 16 minutes
  • Number of UNIQUE participants: 79
  • Number of REPEAT participants: 4
  • Age Range of Participants: 18-55
  • Participant Hometown Breakdown:
    • MANCHESTER, NH – 40
    • NASHUA, NH – 9
    • ROCHESTER, NH – 7
    • CONCORD, NH – 3
    • GOFFSTOWN, NH – 2
    • LACONIA, NH – 3
    • WOLFEBORO, NH – 2
    • DERRY, NH – 2
    • HUDSON, NH – 1
    • LOUDON, NH – 1
    • BRISTOL, NH – 1
    • PELHAM, NH – 1
    • BEDFORD, NH – 1
    • WINCHESTER, NH – 1
    • HILLSBORO, NH – 1
    • BOSCAWEN, NH – 1
    • HOLLIS, NH – 1
    • ALTON, NH – 1
    • OSSIPEE, NH – 1
    • EPPING, NH – 1
    • HOOKSETT, NH – 1
  • Referring MFD Station Breakdown:
    • CENTRAL – 59
    • STATION 2 – 11
    • STATION 10 – 5
    • STATION 7 – 4
    • STATION 4 – 3
    • STATION 9 – 1
    • STATION 5 – 1
    • STATION 3 – 2
    • STATION 6 – 1
  • Number of participants seen for ODs prior to seeking SS Help:  6

“Manchester has worked diligently to raise awareness and bring forward a community response to the fentanyl, heroin and opiate epidemic.  Recently the Manchester Emergency Responder and recovery service community partnered together to bring forward the Safe Station program.  Safe Station is the link between the moment when someone decides it’s time to address their addiction and getting that person to the services they need to get sober utilizing the 24/7/365 firehouses through the city.”

“The need for this connection was immediate and the response to the program has been amazing.  We are seeing the results we had hoped for.  As utilization of the Safe Station program increases overdoses and calls for service decrease.  For the first time since December the city has seen a decline in suspected overdoses and this is the third lowest in a calendar year.  Further, the program retention rate thus far is 89 percent.”

” The Safe Station program has had walk-ins from beyond Manchester’s borders including communities like Rochester, Pelham, Bedford and Concord.  To date, Safe Station has had 87 walk-ins.  Based on the program’s success and the need throughout the State of New Hampshire the expansion of the program needs be seriously considered.  Time is critical and we must have a serious discussion about a statewide expansion of the Safe Station program.  I am hopeful that this can be achieved through the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment. I have invited the Governor’s Commission to Manchester to showcase the program in hopes that they will endorse the program, provide financial assistance and work with Manchester to achieve a sustainable statewide model.

“I commend the Manchester Fire Department and our recovery community for their efforts – they are truly heroes.”

Upon release of the Manchester numbers Mayor Gatsas issued a letter to Timothy Rourke, Chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment to have the City of Manchester host the next meeting of the Commission on Friday, June 24 and showcase the Safe Station program.

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About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!