Providence will offer ‘safe stations’ to provide treatment to drug abusers

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence officials said Monday they plan to open 12 “safe stations” at firehouses around the city to offer treatment services to drug addicts, the latest program designed to combat Rhode Island’s opioid crisis.

The safe stations, which are modeled after a successful program in Manchester, New Hampshire, will allow individuals seeking treatment to immediately be connected with support services 24 hours a day, according to Mayor Jorge Elorza.

“The opioid epidemic is a growing public health crisis that has swept across our nation,” Elorza, a Democrat, said in a prepared statement. “PVD Safe Stations is an innovative citywide response, to help those struggling with addiction and substance abuse disorders.”

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Rhode Island has seen 230 accidental overdose deaths in 2017, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Health. The state reported 336 opioid-related deaths last year.

In Providence, city leaders say opioid abuse has become an everyday problem.

Naloxone, an antidote for overdoes commonly known as Narcan, was the third-most common medicine administered by city firefighters in 2016, behind only saline and oxygen. Acting Rescue Chief Zach Kenyon, who is credited with leading the effort to create safe stations, said the department responded to 60 apparent overdoses in the first week of December.

The safe station program will be funded through state and federal grants, according to state officials. More than $300,000 has already been secured for the program. The city is partnering on it with The Providence Center and R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals (BHDDH).

“We have been very impressed with the action taken by the City of Providence, the Fire Department and The Providence Center in creating this program in response to the opioid crisis,” Rebecca Boss, the director of BHDDH, said in a statement. “We look forward to the launch of safe stations as another point of access for those who suffer from substance use disorders. Breaking down barriers to services is crucial to receiving treatment and starting recovery.”

The safe stations will officially open Jan 2.

Fire/Safe Station Locations:

Engine 2 | Rescue 3 10 Branch Avenue
Engine 3 | 325 Washington Street
Engine 6 | Rescue 2 489 Hartford Avenue
Engine 7 | Rescue 5 151 North Main Street
Engine 8 | 201 Messer Street
Engine 9 | 223 Brook Street
Engine 10 | Rescue 1 847 Broad Street
Engine 11 | 274 Reservoir Avenue
Engine 12 | Rescue 7 426 Admiral Street
Engine 13 | 776 Allens Avenue
Engine 14 | Rescue 6 630 Atwells Avenue
Engine 15 | 136 Mt. Pleasant Avenue

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan