Implementation of a New Hampshire community-initiated response to the opioid crisis: A mixed-methods process evaluation of Safe Station

Int J Drug Policy. 2021 Sep:95:103259. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103259. Epub 2021 Apr 29.


Background: New Hampshire (NH) ranked first for fentanyl- and all opioid-related overdose deaths per capita from 2014 to 2016 and third in 2017 with no rate reduction from the previous year relative to all other states in the US. In response to the opioid crisis in NH, Manchester Fire Department (MFD), the state's largest city fire department, launched the Safe Station program in 2016 in partnership with other community organizations. This community-based response to the crisis-described as a connection to recovery-focuses on reducing barriers to accessing resources for people with substance use and related problems. The study aim is to characterize the multi-organizational partnerships and workflow of the Safe Station model and identify key components that are engaging, effective, replicable, and sustainable.

Methods: A mixed-methods design included: semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted with 110 stakeholders from six groups of community partners (Safe Station clients, MFD staff and leadership, and local emergency department, ambulance, and treatment partner staff); implementation and sustainability surveys (completed by MFD stakeholders); and ethnographic observations conducted at MFD. Qualitative data were content analyzed and coded using the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research. Survey subscales were scored and evaluated to corroborate the qualitative findings.

Results: Community partners identified key program characteristics including firefighter compassion, low-threshold access, and immediacy of service linkage. Implementation and sustainability survey data corroborate the qualitative interview and observation data in these areas. All participants agreed that community partnerships are key to the program's success. There were mixed evaluations of the quality of communication among the organizations.

Conclusion: Safe Station is a novel response to the opioid crisis in New Hampshire that offers immediate, non-judgmental access to services for persons with opioid use disorders requiring community-wide engagement and communication. Data convergence provides guidance to the sustainability and replicability of the program.

Keywords: Community-based; Consolidated framework for implementation research (CFIR); Mixed methods; Opioids; Recovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Fentanyl
  • Humans
  • New Hampshire
  • Opioid Epidemic*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders*


  • Fentanyl