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Safe Stations will remain in place, officials told

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

September 23. 2018 8:21PM




NASHUA — Officials in two of the state’s largest cities are waiting to learn more about how their communities will be included in a state plan to create a new system of care that will combat the opioid crisis.

With Safe Stations already in place in Nashua and Manchester, it is still unclear how those existing programs will operate under the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ new plan for a hub and spoke system, with nine hubs around the state serving as access points.

“The city of Nashua fully intends to continue our Safe Stations program,” Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess said last week after it was announced that the state will receive a State Opioid Response grant totaling $45.8 million from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to Donchess, the Safe Stations program in the Gate City has been successful, with the city’s epidemiologist reporting that those individuals who enter Safe Stations are 62 percent less likely to experience an overdose.

Jake Leon, director of communications for DHHS, explained that Safe Stations are community-based programs created and run by individual communities. The new SOR grant will create regional hubs to centralize and coordinate substance use services across the state specific to the opioid use disorder services that are part of the grant.

“While the hubs are intended to serve as a centralized point of access, we believe they can work in tandem with other community access points, which will be able to use the hubs for evaluation and care coordination to appropriate service providers,” said Leon.

He said the hubs will provide screening, assessment and evaluation to ensure that individuals are referred to the appropriate level of care, will provide referral and care coordination with community-based programs and will be responsible for collecting the extensive data that is required by the grant.

On Friday, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said she was informed by the governor that Safe Stations would remain open and continue as an access point for people in need.

“The way that it fits in the model, I’m not sure because the hub-and-spoke model in Manchester has not been defined. It’s still up in the air,” said Craig, adding more information about the hubs may be available this week.

Craig said there are about 120 to 140 people who report to the city’s Safe Stations each month, adding the existing model in Manchester is working successfully.

“There was some concern about whether or not Safe Stations would continue to be an access point, and given the number of people who know that the fire stations are open 24 hours a day and are comfortable going there when they need help, we’re happy with that continuing,” she said. “But, I am anxious not knowing what the hub is going to be in Manchester ... We need to know where these people are going for help, where we’re going to send them.”

NashuaNews@unionleader.com.

Union Leader Staff Writers Todd Feathers and Shawne K. Wickham contributed to this report.


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