Laconia Fire Department names paramedic/firefighter Brian Keyes drug recovery coordinator
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — When addicts overdose, most often the first person they see is a firefighter. This week, the Laconia Fire Department stepped up its effort to address the crisis of opiate addiction by naming a drug recovery coordinator.
Brian Keyes, a full-time firefighter/paramedic and recovery coach in his sixth year of sobriety, will be among the firefighters responding to every overdose in the city — day or night — and will begin the process of steering the patient into treatment and recovery. Deputy Fire Chief Shawn Riley likened Keyes's role to that of Officer Eric Adams of the Police Department, who for years has encouraged addicts to seek treatment for their addiction, helped place them in appropriate programs and supported them along their road toward recovery.
However, unlike the police, firefighters respond to every overdose, providing Keyes with an opportunity to reach every patient. Since the year began, Riley said, the department has responded to 101 cases of drug overdose, four of which proved fatal. The police make contact with most but not all patients while others are reluctant to speak with the police for fear of prosecution. He said that those using illicit drugs may be be more willing to approach a firefighter than a police officer about seeking help. Firefighters will carry cards with Keyes's contact information.
"We're hoping that Brian will be able to reach those that the police might not," Riley said.
Riley described Keyes as "a pebble in the shoe," referring to his role in leading addicts toward treatment and recovery in aftermath of an overdose when they are most alive to the risks of their addiction. At the same time, Keyes will continue to work his regular shifts as a firefighter/paramedic.
Keyes said that the program is modeled after Adams's role as the PET — "Prevention, Treatment, Enforcement" — officer and that the two will be working together.
Riley said that department considered a program akin to the Safe Station initiative that began in Manchester and was recently introduced in Nashua, which enables addicts to turn to the fire department for help, but found it lacked the resources to ensure its success.
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