Rutland explores the cost of addiction - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Rutland explores the cost of addiction

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"To hear the stories on a grander scale-- more people and the depth of the pain and the costs-- it was an education tonight," said Pat Hunter of Rutland.

Hunter says even after living in Rutland for more than a decade she was surprised by some of the stories of addiction at a public forum Wednesday evening. But the real focus of the event was the cost of addiction.

"We do a lot of work, everybody knows it's a problem, but the more I started digging, I said I bet everybody doesn't know exactly how expensive it is. And what the real costs-- both dollars and cents-- in society is how far the tentacles spread," said Sen. Eldred French, D-Rutland County.

French says many families across the state are devastated by drug and alcohol addictions. But how much do those addictions cost? Panelists began answer that question by breaking down the issue, starting with the kids.

"If I am a 10-year-old student in the sixth-grade and I am going to go six more years at school at $140,000 a year, it's an additional, let's say, million dollars," said Rob Bliss, the assistant superintendent of Rutland schools.

Bliss says rough estimates show that children raised in families struggling with addiction need extra help. And that can cost more than $100,000 per year in additional services.

"The actual medical costs we are seeing are far greater with alcohol dependence because more of the population uses alcohol," said Barbara Cimaglio of the Vt. Department of Health.

Although the numbers are much higher for alcohol abuse compared to drug abuse in state hospitals, Vermont health officials say last year the state spent more than $28 million treating alcohol addiction. The price tag continues to rise when the costs of law enforcement, the court system and the department of corrections are factored in.

French says when those numbers are tallied, the outcome is staggering.

"We are working for a while thinking about costs and they were talking about the B word in the state of Vermont, as in billion," French said.

French also says it is important to realize the costs of these addictions affect everyone. Even if it's not your friend or next-door neighbor with an addiction, come tax time, all Vermonters will be paying the bill.

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