MANCHESTER — The Doorway NH, the state’s new “hub-and-spoke” treatment and recovery program for those struggling with addiction, is designed so that no one in New Hampshire has to travel more than an hour to get services. But that hasn’t stopped people from coming to the state’s largest city when they decide to seek help for addiction.
According to statistics compiled by American Medical Response, the number of individuals seeking help at fire stations in Manchester from outside the city has been rising. AMR provides ambulance services in Manchester and Nashua and partners with the cities’ fire departments in their Safe Station programs.
The state Department of Health and Human Services created the Doorway program last year after the state received a $46 million, two-year grant from the federal government to address its opioid epidemic. The new program features nine “hubs” across the state that do initial screenings and evaluations, and refer individuals to services such as medication-assisted treatment, residential treatment and outpatient therapy — the “spokes” of the new system.
The Safe Station programs in Manchester and Nashua, which allow individuals to seek help for substance use disorders by going to any fire station, had been up and running for three years before the Doorway opened in January. And state officials say that explains why many people are still coming to Manchester.
In the first seven months of this year, half of those helped at the city’s fire stations have come from outside Manchester’s catchment area for the Doorway. Of the 1,171 individuals who came to Safe Station from January through July, 585 were from outside of the city.
By comparison, from January through July of 2018, 395 people came to a Manchester fire station from outside the hub, out of a total of 915 people served, which amounts to about 43% of those served. For all of last year, 873 of the 1,919 individuals served by Safe Station, or 45%, came from outside the city’s hub area.
Ten percent of those served at Safe Station so far this year were from the Laconia area, 10% from the Nashua area, and 12% should have gone to the Dover hub, according to the AMR statistics. Another 6% were from the Concord area and 6% came from out of state. Just 1% each came from communities served by the Berlin, Keene, Lebanon and Littleton hubs.
Last month, Jeffrey Meyers, commissioner of DHHS, acknowledged that many people are still coming from other communities to seek help from Safe Station. “We are working with the hubs in other parts of the state to make sure that when people contact them … that they really take hold of that person and try to steer that person to services in their area rather than have the person come to Manchester,” he told the Union Leader.