Recently, we ran across some headlines from the east coast that were rather encouraging when it comes to overcoming dependencies. Out in cities like East Providence, Rhode Island and Fall River, Massachusetts, local fire brigades are now opening their locales as “safe stations” for people who may be battling addictions. The idea is that anyone can walk in during given hours throughout the day and take initial, anonymous steps towards treatment. The hope would be that a program like this can make recovery more accessible and safe for people who are struggling.
Both cities held major press conferences about their efforts and received a good amount of local coverage. In East Providence they starting with an around-the-clock model, where trained professionals make themselves available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Local officials also emphasized that their firehouses are “completely judgment free” and each squad is equipped with the knowledge and resources to assist walk ins. Four stations in all are participating in that program, with hotlines on site to offer support.
The Fall River model is slightly different. There, walk ins would only be allowed between the hours of 7am to 9pm, but they would actually have recovery specialists on site to help assist. The Massachusetts program is also affiliated with some of New England’s top treatment facilities, including Steppingstone Incorporated, Stanley Street Treatment, Boston Medical Center and St. Anne’s Hospital.
One of their city’s top fire chiefs, Lieutenant William Lonardo, spoke to the press about the program. “This program will make the first step of recovery easier and more accessible to those who don’t know where to turn,” he explained. “I know the fear that’s involved when you’re trying to access treatment. This is another pathway, possibly, to your recovery. And I want everyone to be aware that the fire departments and EMT divisions have not forgotten the opioid epidemic.”
Lonardo also touted the “safe station” success rate thus far. After launching just a few weeks ago, three walks in occurred which ultimately led to treatment admissions. That, in our opinion, is a very encouraging sign and one that can hopefully influence other fire stations across the country to potentially adopt this program. As we’ve mentioned many times before, recovery can go far beyond the work of therapists and specialists. Actively involving police, fire and paramedic personnel can only strengthen the mission.