Nashua’s Safe Station program is coming to an end, according to the city’s fire chief.
Fire Rescue Chief Brian Rhodes said Safe Station, which has been in operation since 2016, will cease on July 1.
The program has allowed anyone seeking assistance with substance abuse or opioid addiction to arrive at a city fire station and immediately receive assistance and access to recovery programs.
“Unfortunately, our existing partner, Partnership for Successful Living, will be unable to provide 24/7 response due to the parameters set forth in the Hub and Spoke and Mobile Crisis Programs,” Rhodes said in a statement last week.
As a result, Southern New Hampshire Health became the new hub for the Nashua region on May 11. Under the direction of the state, the new hub’s hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to Rhodes.
A “very high percentage” of Safe Station participants show up outside of those hours, Rhodes said in the statement.
“The reduction in hub business hours has created an insurmountable challenge for (Nashua Fire Rescue),” he said. “This change would place our members out of service for extended periods of time.”
Mayor Jim Donchess said Friday in a statement that the city is working with its public health department and The Doorway — the state’s nine-location “hub-and-spoke program” for substance-use disorders — to put together a new model for the Safe Station program.
“The city realizes the benefits to the community through the Safe Station program and we are looking at alternative models to continue to provide these services to those in the community who need them, who are suffering from addiction,” Donchess said.
Concerns about funding the program have remained an issue for years.
“The decision to end the program was not made lightly,” said Rhodes, adding he has met with city leaders and hub staff to try to address the issue.
Safe Station services include screenings, clinical evaluations, data collection, naloxone distribution and a referral to the recommended level of care. Nashua Fire Rescue, along with American Medical Response, help provide those medical screenings.
“We are not addiction specialists or social workers who are trained to evaluate and offer guidance to those requesting recovery services,” said Rhodes, stressing city fire stations will remain accessible for all medical emergencies.
Alderman Tom Lopez said in an online statement that he was grateful to Nashua Fire Rescue for its part in the Safe Station program, adding firefighters have been the gateway to a very long road to recovery that, for many, would likely not have been accessible.
Lopez said there is still a great need in Nashua for a program similar to Safe Station, noting a recent surge in overdoses in the city.
He said there is a plan taking shape, through the efforts of Revive Recovery Resource Center and with leadership from the Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services, to work with the Governor’s Hub Model and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center as well as other partners like AMR and GateHouse Sober Community to potentially fill the void.
“We are a community of dynamic and engaged people, and our community has been strengthened by four years of Safe Station participants working to achieve recovery,” Lopez said. “They bring deeper insight into the nature of addiction and a tremendous dedication to helping others overcome it.”
Manchester’s Fire Department was the first to launch a Safe Station program, transforming its 10 fire stations into intake centers where addicts could get help without fear of being arrested.