During our recent blizzard, a young man walked through the door of our fire station with his father. He had driven from Littleton to Nashua, through a “bomb cyclone,” to get help to start his path to substance-use recovery. He had heard of someone else who had come to a fire station in Nashua for support, and could think of nowhere else to go to save his life. He knew he needed treatment, but did not know where to turn for help.
It took our trained firefighters less than 10 minutes to get him access to a treatment facility.
In Nashua, every fire station is a designated safe environment, where people seeking treatment for their substance-use disorder can come for immediate assistance, at any time of the day or night. This program, called Safe Stations, has been lauded across the state and on a federal level as an effective program to fight addiction. It also exists in Manchester, and multiple cities around New Hampshire, which have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, including Rochester, who hopes to implement the program. To date, we have assisted New Hampshire residents from 160 communities.
During our addiction epidemic, it’s crucial for New Hampshire that we continue to support programs that work. Safe Stations is one of those programs, and we would find ourselves unable to do our jobs as effectively as we have been so far without expanded Medicaid.
More than 1,000 individuals have gotten substance-use treatment through Safe Stations. More than 50 percent of individuals who access Safe Stations have New Hampshire Medicaid at their entry to the fire station. Twenty percent of them have no health insurance at all. For individuals to get crucial, life-saving treatment, they need to be able to pay for it, either with quality, affordable health insurance or out of pocket.
Since many of the vulnerable Granite Staters walking through our doors asking for help are unable to pay for treatment out of pocket, expanded Medicaid is what allows them to start their path toward recovery.
Medicaid expansion has resulted in more than doubling our state’s substance-use disorder treatment capacity, since multiple treatment facilities have only been able to open and stay open because of Medicaid expansion. If these facilities were not open and operating to save people’s lives, our firefighters would have nowhere to direct the Granite Staters who are walking through our open doors.
It’s largely agreed upon across our state that New Hampshire’s addiction epidemic is our number one public health concern. Its killed hundreds of Granite Staters and costs the state more than $2 billion annually. Reauthorizing expanded Medicaid will be our greatest tool to support programs like Safe Stations and fight the epidemic.