Shumlin signs bill to help opiate addicts - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Shumlin signs bill to help opiate addicts

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Vermont treatment centers are one step closer to providing more assistance for addicts dealing with opiate abuse.

Governor Peter Shumlin signed the budget adjustment bill Tuesday at the HowardCenter in South Burlington. The mid-year funding bill provides $200,000 to help tackle waiting lists at treatment centers around the state. The bill also provides $175,000 for recovery programs and $50,000 for Narcan, an antidote used to treat opiate overdoses.

"What this budget adjustment does is advance the money to ensure that places like this treatment center here in South Burlington can stop saying we can't help you because we've got waiting lines. So what are they doing? They're expanding staff, they're expanding hours, they're doing the things we know we need to do," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

With an estimated 200 patients currently waiting for treatment at the South Burlington site, the new funding will allow the HowardCenter to add four additional clinicians to its staff.

"We're able to do things beyond the dosing and the therapy but to offer things related to health promotion, such as exercise and nutrition and counseling in that regard or making sure people have a primary care physician," said Dana Poverman, from the HowardCenter.  

The exact number of patients waiting for treatment in the state has also been up for debate. Last year, treatment centers calculated those numbers individually. That prompted Shumlin to announce in his State of the State speech that 1,200 Vermonters were on waiting lists. After further analysis, the actual number was closer to 800.

"The state recognized that this was not an efficient way of understanding the full scope of the problem, which the governor identified in his State of the State address and so they established a more uniform method for each formality of treatment." said Bob Bick from the HowardCenter.

All patients throughout Vermont are now screened for drug usage, how long they've been using and how they consume them.

"If we believe that they meet criteria for admission, based on the answers to those questions and they've been in contact with us within the last 30 days, they are on what is now being referred to as the active waiting list," said Bick.

With additional funds from the budget adjustment bill, Bick says it is still unclear how long it will take to eliminate the active waiting list. But once staffing needs are met, they hope to eventually be able to offer treatment on demand.

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