MANCHESTER — In the two weeks since it opened, Manchester’s new “hub” for opioid treatment and recovery services has already guided dozens of individuals to find help, and hope.
Kim Haney is director of The Doorway at Granite Pathways, overseeing the programs in both Manchester and Nashua that are part of the state’s ambitious new “hub and spoke” system for addiction and recovery services.
In both locations, The Doorway is staffed 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. And someone can call anytime by dialing 2-1-1, 24/7.
The toughest part of getting into the Manchester hub may be the daunting set of wooden stairs on the outside of the building at 303 Belmont St. that lead to The Doorway offices on the second floor; they’re awaiting a city permit to replace them with a sturdier set, Haney said.
On Friday afternoon, two men were sitting in the small reception room, waiting for rides to appointments; other clients were meeting with their counselors in private offices. The office is a work in progress, with a rectangle cut in the sheetrock that will be a reception window, and a sign leaning against a wall, waiting to be hung, that reads: Love lives here.
But that’s just cosmetic; Granite Pathways has been serving this population for years and has relationships with local treatment providers, so it was easy to hit the ground running when the social service agency got the “hub” contract for Manchester, Haney said.
Haney said The Doorway offers a “caring, non-judgmental, stigma-free” environment. There’s a refrigerator stocked with donated snacks and juice; staff members bring in warm clothes to give out to those who come in for help.
“We’re here to meet people where they’re at,” Haney said.
The first thing that happens when someone arrives at the hub is a screening evaluation to see what substance misuse and mental health challenges they’re dealing with. If someone is in crisis, the mobile crisis response team is just five minutes away. Otherwise, clinicians meet with individuals to plan a treatment program. They ask about insurance, but that’s so they can choose the most appropriate providers; no one is turned away, Haney said.
Some folks may need residential treatment; others do better with outpatient services, including medication-assisted treatment. The hub works with local providers — the “spokes” in the new system — to find the right services for each individual, Haney said.“We let them make the choice,” she said. “We never make choices for them.”
Haney said the Manchester hub is seeing 25 to 30 individuals each week; most are coming through the Safe Station program at the city’s fire stations. Some are walk-ins and others were referrals from the “2-1-1” helpline.
“We have people dropped off every single day with their suitcase, or trash bags with all their belongings,” Haney said. Some have only the clothes on their backs, she said. They’ve seen friends die from overdose, and many have overdosed themselves, she said.
“These people have lost everything,” she said. “They’re desperate; they’re scared.”
They also fear the agony of withdrawal. It takes courage to walk in and ask for help, Haney said. “They’re desperate, and they know if they don’t get something at this moment, they’re potentially going to die.”
Haney said many clients are still coming to Manchester from other parts of the state; drug users share information and it’s common knowledge that there are more services here, she said. “They know if they come to Manchester or Nashua, they’re going to have somewhere to go to get warm food in their belly and places to get into treatment quickly,” she said.
Haney said the new system will prove more challenging in some other regions of the state, where the “spoke” services are not widely available. ”The other hubs are going to have to be able to match that, for everybody in the state to stop coming down to Manchester and Nashua,” she said.
She worries about how some hubs will deal with the lack of services available after hours. “When they close at 5 o’clock, it’s going to be very clear, very quickly, that they have nowhere to send someone,” she said.
And that will be very draining on the staff, she said. “It’s hard to go home and sleep in your own bed at night when you know you’ve sent someone to the streets,” she said.
Haney, who is in long-term recovery herself, has worked in the addiction treatment field for 10 years and at Granite Pathways for the past two years. She said the new hub program is not much different than the work she was doing before.
But one welcome change is more funding, thanks to a nearly $46 million federal State Opioid Response grant that led state officials to create the new hub-and-spoke system. That allowed Granite Pathways to double the staff for the Manchester hub, and help clients with transportation, child care and other expenses, Haney said.
Haney said The Doorway’s staff is eager to see more clients as word about the new program spreads. “We’re ready,” she said. “Bring it on.”
The public can learn more about the Manchester Doorway at a forum being held today at 3:30 p.m. at Manchester Health Department, 1528 Elm St. A forum about the Nashua Doorway will also be held on Monday at Nashua City Hall auditorium, 229 Main St., at 1 p.m.