Vermont has taken on the fight against the opiate epidemic in their state head on. Vermont has been extremely proactive in the way they want to help their citizens. This was proven at the United Way meeting held earlier this month. The meeting was a half day forum on opiate abuse and was attended by citizens, substance abuse counselors, community organizers, police, first responders and other interested parties.
The number of citizens in Vermont in 2013 receiving treatment for heroin and other opioids in 2013 for the first time surpassed the figure for those seeking help with alcohol abuse, a top state Health Department official says. "That is frightening," Deputy Health Commissioner Barbara Cimaglio told the attendees of the forum. "We can see by our treatment numbers that this is now our No. 1 problem." Cimaglio, speaking to about 120 people participating in the forum about how to tackle the States's drug problem, said nearly half the young people who are addicted to heroin abused prescription opioids such as OxyContin before they turned to heroin. "You can drink alcohol for a lot of years before you really develop a problem that's going to shatter your life," Cimaglio said. "When you start using opiates, because of the way they affect the brain, you become seriously addicted much more quickly. It kind of overtakes a person without them realizing it." This just shows how dangerous and addicting these medications are as well as being the gateway to harder opiates such as heroin.
The event was a follow-up to the Governor's Community Forum on Opiate Addiction held in June in Montpelier. Governor Peter Shumlin had called for that meeting as part of his ongoing push to have Vermont confront what he views as an opiate and heroin abuse crisis in the state. Shumlin is someone who I have written extensively about because of his dedication to educate the citizens of his state. He had made it very clear that the problems in Vermont are one of his main objectives while he is Governor.
Although much of the information given can be very scary, Cimaglio said there was some good news to report. The percentage of Vermonters abusing opiates declined in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, and treatment for addiction has become more available. "The numbers are beginning to go in the right direction," Cimaglio said.
When you can bring the community together to educate and talk about issues that affect everyone in the state, it starts to have a serious impact on the problem. Just because someone in your family is not directly affected by the problem of addiction does not mean that the opiate epidemic is not affecting you in other ways. The rise in crime is direct result of the opiate problem and towns which were once very safe are plagued with petty crimes. Vermont and their citizens are doing the right thing by bringing everyone together to put a dent in the epidemic and that is all you can ask for. I hope to see more states follow suit.