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State to grant $150k to Manchester Safe Station program

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 17. 2017 11:57PM

MANCHESTER — Gov. Chris Sununu announced Tuesday the state will invest $150,000 in Manchester’s Safe Station program, three weeks after the Queen City set a record for the number of reported opioid-related overdoses in a month.

Sununu announced the funding following a meeting with Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.

“Yesterday, I had a productive meeting with Mayor Ted Gatsas, officials from the city, and New Hampshire Drug Czar David Mara,” said Sununu in a statement. “We worked to secure adequate funding to help ensure the immediate needs of the Manchester Safe Station program and Serenity Place and assuring the continuation of this critical partnership. Manchester’s programming serves as a regional access point for thousands of people suffering from substance abuse disorder to (receive) immediate treatment and it is imperative that the state support these services. Mayor Gatsas understands the needs of Manchester and what it takes as we battle this opioid epidemic.”

“I want to thank Gov. Chris Sununu, Drug Czar David Mara, and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers for working with the City of Manchester to ensure the continued success of the Manchester Safe Station program,” said Gatsas in a statement. “The immediate $150,000 commitment by Gov. Sununu and his leadership team will assure the continuation of Manchester Safe Station and the programs in place to provide the services to Safe Station.”

Gatsas said Sununu suggested they revisit the issue of additional funding soon.

“I am confident that as we move forward we will secure additional funding for the future,” said Gatsas.

According to statistics released Oct. 6 by Christopher Hickey, Manchester’s emergency medical services officer, the city saw 118 suspected opiate-related overdoses in September, a new monthly record. Of those, 11 were fatalities.

The Safe Station program itself also set a new monthly record for intakes with 201 in September.

Gatsas said he and Sununu have had several conversations regarding state funding for the program, due to the high number of visits from people living outside Manchester — including beyond the borders of New Hampshire.

According to Hickey’s statistics, of the nearly 2,500 visits to Safe Station reported since the program was launched in May 2016, 723 were by residents of Manchester. Safe Station — the program that transformed the Queen City’s 10 fire stations into intake centers where addicts can head for help without fear of being arrested — has welcomed visitors from communities across New Hampshire, and from as far away as Birmingham, Ala., and Mesa, Ariz.

“We’ve had nearly 2,500 visits to the Manchester Safe Station program since it started and fatalities are down year over year,” said Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan. “With over 65 percent of Safe Station visits coming from outside of Manchester it is important that the state of New Hampshire be a partner in the Manchester Safe Station program.”

“I don’t think there’s any question the city of Manchester is providing this service for those needing help across New Hampshire, and it’s important that the state step up and help with this funding,” said Gatsas.

Manchester Public Health Director Tim Soucy said the “funding is critical to ensure that people seeking help will be able to continue to access services through the Safe Station program.”

“I want to commend the Manchester Fire Department and all our emergency responders for their tireless work co-leading this initiative along with our non-profit community,” said Sununu. “This initiative benefits not only the City of Manchester but the entire state of New Hampshire.”

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