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Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY — The Derry Friendship Center is offering a regional access point that would aid in substance abuse crises similar to Manchester’s safe stations.

The DFC is located at 6 Railroad Ave. in Derry and for 35 years has been helping people who suffer from alcoholism and other addictions through group-based meetings.

DFC is now partnering with Granite Pathways, an organization that deals with mental illness and addiction crises, said Carol Bowden, DFC board chairman.

Granite Pathways will have a trained individual working at the DFC who will aid Parkland Medical Center in certain emergency situations, she said.

If someone struggling with addiction is admitted to Parkland Medical, they can be treated and then brought to DFC to work with Granite Pathways.

The trained Granite Pathways staff member would give that person specialized help and advise them towards other area recovery resources.

Bowden said the service is similar to Manchester’s safe stations, which turned the cities fire stations into safe places where people suffering from opioid abuse could get medical and personal help without fear of being treated like a criminal.

“Derry doesn’t have an infrastructure for that,” Bowden said.

Bowden said the DFC offers up to 20 group-based meetings a week focused on addiction and mental illness. She said that in order to keep the programs going, fundraisers are held regularly.

“We don’t take any state or federal funding, we are a grassroots organization,” Bowden said.

A 5K-race event is being held at Pinkerton Academy on June 24 to help raise money for the DFC’s programs, including the safe station.

Joshua Bourdon, councilor at large for the Derry Town Council and a key organizer of the 5K race, said the DFC helped him with his alcohol addiction.

“If it wasn’t for the friendship center or the people there who welcomed me and taught me how to live a sober life, I wouldn’t be doing anything I am doing now,” said Bourdon.

Bourdon went to the DFC for the first time five years ago while he was struggling with his addiction. He said that talking to other people with the same problems helped him manage.

“I think it’s important to break down the barriers and chip away at the stigma around people who are suffering from substance abuse disorders,” said Bourdon.

He sees the race as a way to give back to that cause, and he said the safe stations are a sign of the de-stigmatization of addiction.

Bourdon said last year’s race raised $10,000 to help the DFC.