Fire stations opening their doors to addicts


MANCHESTER, N.H.—On a recent weekday afternoon in New Hampshire’s largest city, a stocky, 43-year-old walked into the main fire station seeking help. After firefighters ushered him to a chair near the seven vehicle bays, he dumped needles and a crack pipe in a protective container.

Dennis, a longtime Manchester resident who declined to use his last name, said he developed a heroin addiction after leaving state prison in 2013.

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Heroin is “not something that I want anymore, so I’m gonna try and do the right thing, and that’s the reason why I’m here,” Dennis said. He said he got high only a day earlier and survived at least five overdoses last year. Minutes later, a recovery coach led him to a nearby nonprofit’s office to talk about treatment options.

This city of 110,000, a hot spot in the nation’s raging addiction to opioids such as heroin, has opened the doors of its fire stations to addicts in a novel attempt to address an epidemic devastating its communities.

Dennis was one of eight people who sought help at the fire station that day, and one of about 370 who have shown up since Manchester launched the “Safe Station” program in May.

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