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Manchester Fire Chief Speaks at CTN Annual Scientific Meeting

The Fire Chief of New Hampshire’s Manchester Fire Department, Daniel Goonan, attended the 2018 CTN Annual Steering and Scientific Meeting in North Bethesda, MD to present Safe Station to CTN researchers, partners, and affiliates.

Safe Station is a novel community approach to the opioid epidemic – the first of its kind in the nation. Anyone can walk into any of the 10 fire stations in Manchester, NH, at any time of the day or night, and ask for help with a substance use concern. The fire station responds, with the help of the city’s emergency medical services provider (American Medical Response [AMR]), by checking the person’s vitals and assessing substances of use. They also arrange rides via Lyft (city-funded contract) to either the local regional access point (RAP), Granite Pathways (for treatment referral, case management, and other resources), or to the Farnum Center for after-hours access to a “stabilization unit.” If the person cannot be medically cleared due to other health conditions or recent use of substances (i.e., alcohol or methamphetamine), AMR will transport the individual to a local emergency department for a more detailed medical evaluation.

Since its inception in May 2016, Safe Station has aided over 3,300 people from 160 different communities in New Hampshire, and over 15 other states, as far away as Alaska.

Most of those who utilize Safe Station cite a lack of ability to get into treatment programs when calling on their own, or they receive a “we can take you in ‘x’ number of days, weeks, or even months” answer. Safe Station attempts to capture that moment when the person either wants to seek help and provides immediate linkage to the RAP. “These are the poorest of the poor, the kind of people who don’t have insurance and don’t know who to call or where to go when they are ready. The Fire Department is a part of the community, a place people are comfortable coming for help because that’s what we do. We help people,” Chief Goonan explained.

In the last year, Safe Station has responded to an 11% increase in overdoses but has seen a 24% decrease in fatalities. Though Chief Goonan advised that it’s impossible to tell whether the decrease in fatal overdoses is attributed to Safe Station, the city of Manchester has seen an influx of more potent and varied substances (i.e., carfentanil, U-47700, fentanyl) during the same time when the decrease in fatal overdoses has been observed.

Safe Station programs have launched in many communities across the country, including Nashua NH, Rochester NH, Del Ray Beach FL, Lake County FL, Malden MA, Lynn MA, Brockton MA, Fire Department of New York NY, Los Angeles County Fire CA, Providence RI, Santa Fe NM, and Burlington VT (to name a few).

The Northeast Node is currently assisting in the evaluation of the Safe Station Model in Manchester, NH. You can read more about the NIDA-funded study here.

William Mueller, Assistant Fire Chief of Colerain Township, OH; Betty Tai, Director of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network; Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; Daniel Goonan, Fire Chief of Manchester, NH.