Opiate abuse back in focus in Montpelier - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Opiate abuse back in focus in Montpelier

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Raina Lowell Raina Lowell

The issue of addiction in the Green Mountain State takes center stage in Montpelier Monday.

The Governor hosted a community forum as the state seeks solutions to the growing opiate dependence and associated crime.

The goal is to determine how to beef up programs that work, and find a meaningful way to prevent people from popping the first pill.

"Addiction has affected every single aspect of my life," said Raina Lowell, a recovered opiate addict. "I'm not just talking about your run-of-the-mill losing everything, hurting people I love, compromising my values. I mean, I did all that too, but I'm talking about something much bigger than that."

Lowell popped pills, snorted crack and shot up heroin but she says she is three years, 131 days clean as of Monday. Lowell says her tale saturates her with shame but she tells it for a reason.

"To make it a little easier to find the human being stuck within the shell of an addict," said Lowell.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, says the goal of this forum is to redouble efforts that work and find a path to prevention, the toughest element of the problem for the state to address thus far.

"That's what we're hoping to come out of today with, a blueprint," said Shumlin.

"Everyone here has a part to play and that's why we're all gathered today, we can do this," said Harry Chen, Vemront Health Commissioner.

Chen called the problem a crisis and pointed to a rising death toll as evidence. At least 50 Vermonters died in opiate-related deaths last year, but he also says there are positive signs including a new treatment model and data indicating opiate addicts generally seek treatment faster than those addicted to alcohol.

The state is spending an additional $12 million on new efforts this year.

However, an addiction expert from Dartmouth Hitchcock says resources aren't the problem, it's finding proven, effective techniques.

"I imagine there are at least a few of you out there that are hoping I might be able to stand her and tell you how to get someone sober," said Lowell.

Lowell says she knows what works for her, but says there's no blanket prescription for the prescription-driven problem.

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