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When you think of drug use in Vermont, you probably think about the opioid epidemic. Back in 2014, Gov. Peter Shumlin dedicated his entire State of the State address to it. And the problem become a top priority for treatment professionals and law enforcement.

But sometimes, a crackdown on on drug makes the illegal drug market shift toward another, and Vermont authorities have noticed a surge in crack cocaine use and related violence.

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Vermont's population is aging, and that demographic trend has put new pressure on Medicare spending. It's also highlighted the need to improve care for older Vermonters. A unique program that links health care and other services to affordable housing complexes in Vermont may be part of the solution.  

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The challenge faced by people struggling with addiction has been exacerbated by lengthy waitlists for treatment. The backlog is now starting to shrink. And the positive trend is thanks in part to local doctors making a special effort to do more.

New research out of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) as a result of their mother's opiate use shows that a different method for neo-natal care can address infants' symptoms more effectively.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday issued an updated health advisory for the suspected carcinogen PFOA.

The National Academy of Sciences — probably the country's most prestigious scientific group — has reaffirmed its judgment that GMOs are safe to eat. But the group's new report struck a different tone from previous ones, with much more space devoted to concerns about genetically modified foods, including social and economic ones.

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The battle over bathrooms and gender identity has come to a head in recent weeks, at least in some parts of the country. And Vermont is making an effort to stay ahead of the curve. 

Angela Evancie / VPR file

When the new governor takes office in January, he or she will be given a new, independent analysis concerning the future of Vermont Health Connect, the state's health care web site.

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It's well-known that the US has a problem with high rates of obesity and related health issues. Less well-understood are some of the basic mechanisms at the core of gaining and losing weight - how metabolism works, and the ways our bodies store and expend energy. 

Courtesy of Dana Walrath

When Alzheimer's Disease led Dana Walrath to care for her mother Alice at home, Alice told Dana, "Promise me you will do something else when it gets too hard." The story of Alice's decline, and how it changed their family and social relationships is told in Walrath's new book, Aliceheimer's: Alzheimer's Through the Looking Glass.

Jacob Goldstein

Farmers have started planting Vermont’s third hemp crop. Though their numbers are few, the acreage devoted to hemp has significantly increased this year, as has the direction of the state’s fledgling hemp industry.

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Hopes for single-payer health care in Vermont were sidelined at the end of 2014, but lawmakers haven’t given up on the concept of publicly-financed medical system. And a coming study could lay the groundwork for universal care for all Vermonters under the age of 27.

The first soil sample results in North Bennington show very low levels of the contaminant PFOA. PFOA is a suspected carcinogen and dangerous levels of the chemical have been detected in private wells in the area.

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The state’s two main health insurance providers are seeking a more than 8-percent increase in rates next year, and state officials say the requests underscore the need for comprehensive health care reform.

Kathleen Masterson / VPR

Thirteen years ago, it cost nearly $3 billion to sequence the first human genome. Now that cost has plummeted to closer to $1,000 per genome, making it likely an increasingly common tool for patients in the not-so-distant future – and the subject of a recent pilot study at the University of Vermont.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Mothers with a concentration of PFOA in their blood have a greater likelihood of ending breastfeeding early, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research.

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The Vermont Health Department is seeking a federal grant to help educate the public about the risks associated with the Zika virus. Health officials stress that it's very unlikely that mosquitos in Vermont will transmit the virus.

Vermont has made it easier for both women and men to get birth control services. For the first time, new legislation requires that vasectomies are added to insurance policies — with no co-pay for the patient. 

The discovery of a possible carcinogen in private drinking supplies in North Bennington spurred the passage of new toxics legislation in Montpelier this year.

Toby Talbot / AP

A ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court could change the legal landscape for mental health care in Vermont. The high court ruled that mental health professionals should provide more information about potentially dangerous patients who are leaving treatment.