Seven people have used 'Safe Stations' for help with opioid crisis since program began
A partnership between the Chattanooga Fire Department and the Hamilton County Coalition has had a successful first month after seven people utilized the "Safe Station" initiative. Anyone struggling with addiction can show up to a fire station in Chattanooga any time, day or night, for help.
Chattanooga Fire Chief Phil Hyman says people seeking help should have no fear if they go to a Chattanooga fire station for help.
"Our stations are open 24/7 they can ring the doorbell, if our guys are on a call they can wait for a few minutes, we will more than likely be back," said Chief Hyman.
The fire station that receives the person seeking help, will call someone with the NU-Start Program. Chief Hyman says he didn't know how many people would utilize this resource at first.
"I was kind of surprised to see a number of seven, it was pretty high in my estimation it just means we're on the right track," said Chief Hyman.
His firefighters will run the person through a medical check when they come in.
"Our goal when they get there is to simply check their medical, get a quick medical assessment to see if they have any immediate medical needs and then immediately start the process of connecting them with critical resources," said Chief Hyman.
Then the NU-Start team will be there within 30 minutes to perform their own assessment to find a program that best suits that individual's needs.
"There's that window of someone that is desperate for help in that moment and then they could have the opportunity to get high and so you've lost them because they're gone back into their ways so so we have a rapid response team who really goes by that name."
Leslie Lay the NU-Start program coordinator says there will be no judgment.
"OK, I have no where to go, I may be homeless or embarrassed because of the stigma of addiction and they can go to these fire stations and say hey I need help and they don't have to worry about anything except getting the help that they need," said Lay.
Since NU-Start got up and running in February they now have over 120 people in their program. They have a network of treatment options ready to go for someone at a moment's notice.
"It makes it really easy to pick up the phone and say I've got someone right now and he's going through this, this, and this you know can we get him a bed?" said Lay.
The programs they offer aren't just for the person struggling with addiction, but their family as well.
"Anything that we can do to help that family live as much of a normal and comfortable life as they can while we have their client with us trying to get back on the right road, our program is for those people," said Lay.
The NU-Start program doesn't require insurance.