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Safe Station: A Systematic Evaluation of a Novel Community-based Model to Tackle the Opioid Crisis

Funding Source

NIDA Clinical Trials Network

Project Period


Principal Investigator

Lisa A. Marsch, PhD (Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth/Northeast Node CTN)

Other Project Staff

Andrea Meier (Dartmouth/NE Node), Bethany McLeman (Dartmouth/NE Node), Elizabeth Saunders (Dartmouth), Olivia Walsh (Dartmouth/NE Node), Stephen Metcalf (Dartmouth), Sarah K. Moore (Dartmouth/NE Node), Kathleen Bell (Dartmouth/NE Node), Sophia Ahmad (Dartmouth)

Project Summary

In response to the opioid crisis, the Manchester, NH, Fire Department launched a highly innovative program called “Safe Station” in May of 2016. This community-based response to the opioid crisis focuses on reducing barriers to accessing resources and providing a safe community for people with opioid use problems. This program describes itself as a “connection to recovery.” Any individual with an opioid use problem can walk into one of the 10 Manchester fire stations at any time of day or night to seek assistance. Fire department personnel immediately assess each person’s vital signs to determine if they need immediate medical attention, such as for an overdose (in which case they are immediately provided with naloxone and/or transported to a local emergency department as needed). Participants interested in connecting with a substance use disorder treatment program are immediately transported to a treatment program. The goal of this study is to conduct a systematic evaluation of the novel Safe Station program to characterize the multi-organizational partnership and workflow of the program, and to identify the active ingredients in this model that are engaging, effective, replicable, and sustainable. The study uses a combination of observations using digital ethnographic software, qualitative interviews, quantitative measures of implementation and sustainability, and brief demographic forms collected from consumers, staff and leadership at Manchester Fire Department, coordinating community partners, and local emergency departments.

Public Health Relevance

New Hampshire has the highest rate of fentanyl overdose deaths per capita and the second highest rate of opioid overdose deaths per capita relative to all other states in the U.S. Compounding this, NH has the second lowest per capita spending on treatment for substance use disorders in the nation and the lowest rate of buprenorphine treatment providers per capita in New England. The Safe Station program is a community-based response to the opioid crisis that is focused on reducing barriers to accessing resources and providing a safe community for people with opioid use problems. This study is an unprecedented research opportunity to inform how a novel community-initiated response to the opioid crisis in New Hampshire could scale to respond to the national opioid crisis.