A small state in the Northeast has become the epicenter in the fight against heroin and opiate addictions.
Despite its quaint and rural reputation, Vermont has been hard-hit by the opiate epidemic, with more Vermonters in recovery from heroin than alcohol. The state’s drug problem is so bad that last year the governor devoted his State of the State address to the “full-blown heroin crisis.”
That speech was a catalyst for change in the state, and now the nation is looking to Vermont for inspiration in solving the crisis. Funding for treatment has nearly tripled this year. The state has implemented programs that send offenders to rehab rather than to jail. In addition, a network of doctors, social services and other support is on hand to help Vermonters succeed in breaking away from their addiction.
“Vermont has emerged as the leading state in the country in addressing opioid overdose,” Lindsay LaSalle, a California-based attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Boston Globe.
Although results are slow to come, there has been a dramatic change in the conversation around addiction, according to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin.
“We’ve changed the conversation,” he said recently. “This isn’t an issue to be ashamed about any more than you should be ashamed of getting cancer or kidney disease.”