[ View the story "Vermont governor: state has 'full-blown heroin crisis'" on Storify] Vermont governor: state has 'full-blown heroin crisis' Governor Peter Shumlin devotes entire State of the State address to Vermont's growing opiate addiction problem.
AJAMStream· Thu, Jan 09 2014 12:53:52
In every corner of our state, heroin and opiate drug addiction threatens us. It threatens the safety that has always blessed our state. It is a crisis bubbling just beneath the surface that may be invisible to many but is already highly visible to law enforcement, medical personnel, social service and addiction-treatment providers and too many Vermont families. It requires all of us to take action before the quality of life that we cherish so much is compromised.governor.vermont.gov
Vermont has long had some of the
of illicit drug use in the nation. Treatment for opiate addiction has
by 770% since the year 2000, with much of that growth stemming from abuse of the opiate drug and prescription painkiller Oxycontin. Some
the cause of the state's sudden rise in heroin use is due to a 2010 change in the formula for Oxycontin, which made the drug harder to crush and dissolve.
Whatever the cause, the recent figures on heroin in Vermont are striking. Heroin-related
for heroin trafficking doubled from 2012 to 2013. The number of Vermonters seeking treatment for heroin addiction
40 percent in the past year. At the time of Shumlin's address, more than 600 Vermonters were on
to receive treatment for their opiate addictions.
Photo: Recovering addicts outside the Kingdom County Recovery Center. (Hannah Palmer Egan/Vice)
the Vermont legislature to direct $1 million of the state's 2015 budget to substance-abuse treatment as well as $200,000 in immediate funding to help reduce waiting lists at treatment centers. He also proposed a program for greater cooperation between police and treatment professionals, including $760,000 for "rapid intervention" in criminal cases where drug addiction is suspected to be a contributing factor.
In his address, Shumlin praised the work of Vermont filmmaker Bess O'Brien, whose film "The Hungry Heart" (trailer below) chronicles a Vermont community's struggle with opiate addiction. He announced that the state would fund an initiative for O'Brien and her film's subjects to tour schools across the state to speak to students about avoiding and overcoming addiction.
HH TRAILER-VIMEOBess O'brien
While support for Shumlin's specific proposals received general praise from Vermont legislators on both sides of the aisle, some
his speech's singular focus. Others have pointed to the $70 million budget shortfall
for 2014, raising questions about how the governor's anti-opiate addiction initiatives will be paid for.
What do you think of Shumlin's proposals for addressing Vermont's heroin epidemic? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.