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People who need help with addiction can find 'safe station' at Bristol police

A room at the Bristol Police Department is set aside for people who are seeking treatment for addiction. (WJAR)
A room at the Bristol Police Department is set aside for people who are seeking treatment for addiction. (WJAR)
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"I've been in recovery since 2005, and then I had a relapse in 2010 and then came back," said Ines Garcia.

Garcia knows all too well what addiction looks like and feels like.

"It started very young. My first taste was 9, but it wasn't until I was 11 that I actually got into it, and by 17 I was done. I was addicted," Garcia said.

The addiction started with alcohol, Garcia said, and progressed to the harder drugs, including opioids.

"It just spiraled down and spiraled down, and things just got worse," she said.

Garcia said keeping up with life was hard, especially hard when she was keeping up with an addiction, but a phone call to a suicide hotline put her on the path to recovery.

She's hoping a visit to Rhode Island's first safe station inside a police department -- in Bristol -- will save others.

Tommy Joyce of the East Bay Recovery Center explained how it works.

"Someone reports here to the police station and says, 'I need some help,' or it could be a family member, and the police department will give us a call. I'll have somebody here within 30 to 45 minutes. A peer recovery support specialist will report here," Joyce said. "We have a nice private room here at the police station. We'll try to engage them in treatment resources, recovery supports or any kind of information we can, and then if they want to go into treatment, we'll transport them to treatment."

According to the latest data released by the state, Bristol is not on the so-called top 5 list that's reserved for cities including Providence and Pawtucket. Bristol wants to keep it that way, and that's why they're keeping open this safe station.

The top five list includes the municipalities with the highest burden of opioid overdoses. People from one of those areas can come still come to Bristol for help.

Lt. Steven St. Pierre is the community liaison.

"There's nothing to fear coming to the police department. This is totally an offer to assist and to help. Anybody who comes to the police department can expect to be greeted with compassion and care for their health-related issue," St. Pierre said. "This is not a law enforcement issue to us, it's a community health issue."

The safe station has the full support of Bristol Police Chief Kevin Lynch, who praised St. Pierre.

"His career began in mental health services and addiction, and he's been a catalyst and a driving force. Really, the story should be about him because he's truly made a difference in this community," said Lynch.

Garcia has a message for anyone who needs help because they're battling opioid addiction.

"It was always my intent to advocate," she said.

The Warren Police Department will be opening a safe station too.

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