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Vermont Making Progress Against The Opiate Epidemic

The state of Vermont has had their share of issues with the fight against the opiate epidemic. Governor Shumlin has made great changes and has shown impressive dedication to curbing the opiate problem in his state. Taking on such a large task is by no means easy.  Many states have made similar changes but what is great about the way Vermont has handled things is that they are usually the first to do so. They are at the forefront and have proven to care for their citizens well-being when it comes to the opiate problem plaguing the country.

The governor's office has released some statistics to show that all of the hard work they have put in, is starting to pay off. Much of the changes have come quicker than I would have expected. It's amazing to see the differences that powerful people behind these initiatives can make.

About 2,500 people are in treatment, up from 1,700. Although there are still waiting lists, this is great progress. This could be the most important statistic of all because it shows an extra 800 lives being changed. This is a direct success and the waiting lists will be there until we can house every addict, but less people waiting is outstanding.

The state has hired a statewide director of pretrial services to help drug abusers who have committed non-violent crimes get treatment and avoid court; the program has expanded into four more counties. This new program will affect countless lives in the state where 70-80% of the inmates are incarcerated because of crimes directly related to drug addiction.

Almost 1,200 overdose rescue kits (Naloxone) have been distributed to law enforcement and treatment programs.  67 lives being saved so far with them as of October 2014. Narcan (Naloxone) has saved many lives and has the ability to save more, but you need them on the front lines for this to happen. Vermont was one of the first states to implement this and the lives saved is amazing. Not to mention the pilot project starting this month that will allow inmates in South Burlington and Rutland to get drug treatment medications behind bars. This is having a direct effect against the revolving door. If an inmate wants to better themselves and change their ways, they now have the ability and resources to do so.

“This is a long journey. We are not going to eradicate opiate addiction in Vermont overnight....What I can say is that the progress that we have made since January exceeds my wildest expectations,” Shumlin said. Last week, Shumlin co-chaired the National Governor’s Association’s Drug Abuse Academy, a six-state policy academy on prescription drug abuse. New England states and New York are also working together to help fight the problem in the region.

Clinics are reporting reduced waiting lists. The clinic in Chittenden County has been able to serve about 30 percent more patients since January, 2014. Serving 932 patients, up from 722 previously, which is a great improvement. Though there still is a waiting list of about 290 people, it's 55 percent lower than what it was.

A statewide forum on community-based solutions resulted in the Health Department holding 10 follow-up meetings involving 500 people in local communities working on their own plans, said Barbara Cimaglio, deputy health commissioner in charge of Vermont’s alcohol and drug abuse prevention program. “We’re really trying to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts,” Cimaglio said.  Hopefully we will see continued progress and more states joining in to fight the opiate epidemic.

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