For those who are struggling with an addiction to drugs, they may find themselves in an environment which isn’t safe or conducive for recovery. Whether it is an unstable home environment or other setting in which active drug abuse or drug activity is rampant, those addicts who desire help may feel they have no place to turn to for support.
For those who live in Manchester, New Hampshire, their local fire department has created such a safe space.
According to an article posted on the Manchester Ink Link website, The Manchester Fire Department–in conjunction with other local and state agencies–recently announced a groundbreaking ‘Safe Stations’ initiative along with the expansion of the local United Way’s 2-1-1 service.
With the Safe Stations programs, those who are struggling with drug addiction can walk into any of Manchester’s ten fire stations in order to seek assistance. Under this initiative, the fire stations will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. When an addict walks into one of the fire stations, the in-house company officer at that station will contact local dispatch to temporarily take the company out of service under a new code which is called “Code Hope” until the situation with the addict is resolved.
These Safe Stations have been created for those who are seeking a safe and supportive place to turn to for help. For those who enter these ‘safe zones’ for help with drug paraphernalia in their possession, they will be asked to drop any and all drug-related items in a collection bin that is located at the entrance. For those who possess weapons, the police department will be notified.
Additionally, the existing 2-1-1 service that is funded by the Granite United Way will institute a 24-hour hotline in which individuals who are requesting assistance for their substance abuse issues will be connected to a live recovery coach through Hope for NH Recovery, who will work with struggling addicts to get them the much needed resources and programming that will help them break the cycle of addiction in their lives and put them on the path towards recovery.
The Safe Stations initiative was the brainchild of Chris Hickey, who is the Emergency Services Coordinator for the city of Manchester. As with many of his peers with the Manchester Fire Department, he believes that the role of the fire department should go beyond just fighting fires. In an article which was published in EMS World, Hickey created the Safe Stations program from a personal event.
About a month ago, a relative of a fellow firefighter had been struggling with an addiction to opioids and was on the brink of suicide. Once hearing about the individual’s situation, Hickey asked the individual to come down to the fire station before they do anything drastic. The addict came to the station, and through the help of Hickey was able to work with Hope for NH Recovery and was on their way to a California drug rehab within 48 hours.
Manchester’s Safe Station program is an example of how emergency and law enforcement services nationwide are changing the way in which they handle drug addicts. According to an article published yesterday in The Boston Globe, Colerain Township in Ohio formed a quick response team last year which coordinated the efforts of local police, paramedics, and addiction counselors to help steer addicts towards treatment.
In Upper Darby, Pa., the police department opened their door to addicts, and drug users who come to the station seeking help will be referred to addiction professionals. Additionally, the police chief in Gloucester, Massachusetts instituted a program last year which helped addicts to find treatment if they turned in their drugs and related drug paraphernalia.