Opioid Addiction

Attorney General TJ Donovan announced a $28 million settlement with tobacco companies Thursday. Gov. Phil Scott and legislative leaders say they'll use $14 million to combat the state's opioid problem. They have yet to decide how to spend the remainder.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

A legal settlement with tobacco companies has resulted in a financial windfall for the state of Vermont.

A graph from the Drug Poisoning (Overdose) Fatalities Report released Thursday shows accidental deaths involving heroin and fetanyl in Vermont. The report notes that 2016 and 2017 data are preliminary. Find the report here: http://bit.ly/2CQH9Pm
Vermont Department of Health, Courtesy

The number of accidental overdose deaths in Vermont involving the synthetic drug fentanyl increased significantly last year, according to a new report.

Medication-assisted treatment is one of the most effective ways to combat opioid addiction, but access to MAT in Vermont prisons can be limited.
Instants / iStock

Dealing with addiction in prison is complicated. For some, it helps them get away from the drugs and into treatment. But treatment while incarcerated can be limited, and those leaving prison often face the greatest risk of a relapse.

Vermont Supreme Court in Montpelier.
Lillian Kate Alfin Johnson / VPR/file

At first glance, the numbers look optimistic. After three years of increases in family court cases related to addiction such as child abuse and neglect, numbers were down for fiscal year 2017.

The report from Vermont's Opioid Coordination Council highlights some successes in the state's response to the opioid crisis, but stresses the need to increase prevention and do more for Vermonters in recovery.
Moussa81 / iStock

Thousands of Vermonters have been treated for opioid addiction, and prescriptions for addictive painkillers are down. Vermont's Opioid Coordination Council says that these are signs of progress, but more still needs to be done to create a "firewall of resilience" to the deadly opioid crisis in Vermont. 

A meeting of the CommunityStat group at city hall in Burlington. The monthly meeting brings together police, public health, social services and city and state officials to coordinate their response to opioid addicition.
Liam Elder-Connors / VPR

The city of Burlington is implementing a team to reach out to people who overdose on opioids within 60 hours of the incident.

fstop123 / iStock

Child abuse and neglect cases are overwhelming the Family Division of the Vermont Court system, a situation that Court Administrator Patricia Gabel says, “has stretched existing resources to the breaking point."

A new Blue Cross Blue Shield Report shows a major reduction in the number of opioid prescriptions in the last 6 months
Tomas Nevesely / i-stock

A new Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont report shows there's been a dramatic reduction in the number of prescriptions being written for opioid pain medication in Vermont.

Blue Cross officials says new state prescribing policies, which went into effect July 1, 2017, are a major factor in the decline.

 Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George is arguing for the creation of supervised safe injection facilities, saying the effort would save lives.
zlisjak / iStock

It may sound counterintuitive, but a Committee headed by Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George recently came to the conclusion that a safe injection facility for drug users in Chittenden County would be an effective tool in addressing Vermont's opioid crisis.

Bennington County Sen. Dick Sears says he's not sure Vermonters are ready to embrace safe injection sites for opioid users, despite data showing the facilities decrease overdose deaths and increase the number of addicts seeking treatment.
Angela Evancie / VPR File

Legislation that would have enabled safe injection sites for opioid users looked like it might be gaining momentum in Montpelier this year, but a key Senate committee is now backing away from the plan.

Sarah Evans, who formerly managed a safe injection site in Vancouver, told lawmakers that the facilities are associated with a reduction in overdoses, and an increase in addicts seeking treatment.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

The rising toll of opioid addiction has policymakers looking for new ways to save lives, and Vermont lawmakers are giving serious consideration to a bill that would open the door to supervised drug injection sites.

Lauretta Sheridan with her doctor in August 2017. Sheridan reached out two years ago to share her experience recovering opioid addiction. Over the course of the last two years, we've kept in touch as she recovers.
Lynne McCrea / VPR

So often when discussing addiction, people wonder why addicts can't just stop using. Recover.

And so to better understand what it really takes to kick addiction, we followed one woman's multi-year journey.

The national state average of overdose deaths is 19.8 per 100,000, which puts Vermont nearly the same as the national rate, at 22.2.  All five other New England states have rates above the national average.
NCHS data, VPR illustration

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control says Vermont had the lowest rate of drug overdose deaths in New England.

Senate Health and Welfare chairwoman Sen. Claire Ayer is backing a plan to allow Vermont to purchase some prescription drugs from Canada at much lower costs
Angela Evancie / VPR File

A group of House and Senate lawmakers will try to lay the groundwork next year for a publicly funded system of universal primary care in Vermont.

The number of families that came into the Vermont Department for Children and Families support system increased, largely he says due to substance abuse issues.
Tomas Nevesely / iStock

The state's child protection line received a record number of calls last year, and officials say the opioid crisis continues to have an impact on families throughout Vermont.

Emily Corwin / VPR News

As attitudes toward pain management change, some researchers say there's better evidence supporting cannabis use for chronic neuropathic pain management than opioids. Yet, for this Vermonter, an opioid prescription costs a dollar, while medical marijuana costs hundreds.

Addressing the state’s drug crisis has been an all hands on deck approach from the medical community, law enforcement to social workers.

But advocates are saying one missing player in all this – has been employers. And how they can be a part of the solution. Whether that’s offering jobs to those in recovery or simply changing how addiction is addressed and talked about at work.

Robert Blaise says the peer drug counseling he took part in while he was in jail in Rutland has helped him stay clean since his release. He now meets weekly with his recovery coach and attends 12-step meetings at Rutland's Turning Point Center.
Nina Keck / VPR

In an effort to help the many Vermont inmates suffering from addiction before their release, a nonprofit in Rutland is trying something different: providing peer-to-peer counseling.

In 2015, there were more than 52,000 drug overdose deaths in just that year. In 2016, it's estimated that number will be exceeded by 10,000 more.

Colin Benjamin, director of the Office of Professional Regulation, says an overhaul of rules governing alcohol and drug counselors will increase the supply of addiction-treatment specialists in Vermont.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

As substance abuse treatment agencies struggle to find qualified workers, state officials are trying to make it easier to become an alcohol and drug counselor in Vermont.