RUTLAND, Vt. — Hidden from view among Vermont's world-famous ski resorts and picturesque villages is one of the deadliest slopes.
“My patients tell me you can find heroin on every street corner in Burlington, for example,” said Dr. Deborah Richter, a family physician in Montpelier and one of the state’s leading addiction specialists. “It’s in every town.”
Heroin is spreading through rural America, striking small towns like Rutland, with a population of 16,495. Vermont now ranks second in the country in the number of people per capita seeking treatment for opiate addiction.
Tucked near downtown Rutland’s quaint streets is Serenity House, a halfway home for addicts trying to get clean. Matt Fredette and Ashley Blanchard are now going through recovery there.
Fredette’s addiction cost him a successful career as a computer technician for the Department of Homeland Security, but he’s now been clean for more than a year.
“The people here don't even make enough money to get by, but they'll get rid of their food cards, they'll do whatever means, you know, they'll go without food, they'll steal from friends and family just to get one more,” he said.
Blanchard, who’s been clean for six months, picked up his thought: “And as soon as that one's over, you're thinking about how you're going to get more, and what tomorrow's going to bring. No matter what, 24/7/365 a year plotting in your head on how to get the next high. It's an everyday struggle, an every-second struggle.”
After some trouble with the law and about a dozen overdoses that put her in the hospital, 21-year-old Blanchard hit rock bottom.
“I was homeless with a gun to my head,” she said. “It destroys you. You're happy. You're sad. You're miserable. You're excited. And physically, everything on your body hurts.”