How do we quantify Safe Station ‘success’?

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I have a meeting with Rochester Fire Department this afternoon regarding exploring options for a Safe Station program in their community so I wanted to get the numbers out early. Last week a group of stakeholders from the City met with the City of Nashua officials regarding progress in the two cities and possible collaboration on efforts to improve things moving forward. All in all it was a very positive meeting and many good ideas were shared and a lot of good up-to-date information was gathered from both sides. It’s always a good thing to have two of the major cities talking to each other to collaborate on problems that affect us all.

After the meeting I heard there was some question as to “the validity of Manchester’s statistics.” What I can say is that I collect data on a daily basis for intakes, locations, time, disposition, etc., and that is what I report out to the masses.

Serenity Place and Helping Hands collects data on admissions, program types, elopement, etc. The three entities meet regularly, much of the time weekly, to go over the numbers and plot the sustainability and viability of the program itself and how/where to make improvements of process changes.

But let me ask you this: What would qualify as a success? As I have said before, trying to put a hard number on successful recovery is difficult. Is a “success” someone who is admitted to a program, clean for a month, then uses once and turns back to the program to get back on track? Or is that a “failure?” If someone who goes through and is clean for years but falls off the wagon one day a success or a failure? This is a disease and one we are still learning about every day. Look at other diseases like cancer. If you undergo radiation and chemo and are clear for years but it comes back, do you automatically look at that like a failure or was it a success?

This program is successful but some feel like we must make these numbers up and tell people only what they want to hear. They don’t look at the big picture of WE are giving these people a chance at something they may not have had if we hadn’t opened our doors and brought all the resources to the table.

This isn’t a process that you can measure like your bank account where you see concrete hard numbers going up and down. If people are going to be critical to the point where they call me out personally on this to people that are in charge of other departments and other similar programs that used our program as a starting point then perhaps we should just deem this a failure and close up shop. You could do hundreds of good positive things over your lifetime but then one false rumor or impression is put out there and that is what people remember.

I know one of my biggest faults is that I’m not one to hide my emotions or not voice my opinion, so I’m not always going to be the best spokesperson or be PC on issues. I apologize for my rant but I feel better about myself having voiced what has been weighing on my mind for the last week.

Back to reality … the reality is that our numbers of admissions into Safe Station continue to remain high and steady at 73 so far this month. On the suspected opiate overdose front we are also remaining quite low compared to a year ago with 25 ODs and 4 suspected fatalities through March 16, 2017, compared to 34 ODs and 6 suspected fatalities through March 16, 2016. If things continue on this trend we will once again, for the thirdmonth in a row, be at a number 40 percent+ lower than 2016.

Below are the updated Fact Sheets for Safe Station and Opiates:

Christopher Hickey is Director of Emergency Services for the City of Manchester, NH.

About Carol Robidoux 6698 Articles
Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!