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At Issue: Vermonters' opinions on drugs - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

At Issue: Vermonters' opinions on drugs

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

There are four key issues facing Vermont that are on the minds of people living here.

In a WCAX survey of 653 registered voters, 17 percent say they are concerned about taxes, that's tied with the economy and jobs. 16 percent say healthcare is the biggest issue facing the state. And right behind that, at 15 percent, is drugs.

Even as the state enjoys the fruits of foliage season, there is something happening here that has Vermonters worried.

"One of the issues that really struck me was 24 percent in the southern counties saw opiate addiction as the most important issue," says Rich Clark with Castleton Polling Institute.

That's registered voters surveyed in Bennington, Rutland, Windham and Windsor Counties. Compare that 24 percent in the southern section to 15 percent of folks in Northern Vermont and just 7 percent in Central Vermont who are most concerned about opiates. In Chittenden County 9 percent said they were worried about opiates.

In his state of the state address in January, the Governor said that opiate abuse posed a bigger challenge than Tropical Storm Irene. After that address, there was a storm of publicity including this Rolling Stone magazine cover and an article titled "The New Face of Heroin".

"I think it's unfair it is not a characteristic portrayal of our community or the people in the state of Vermont," said Rutland Police Sgt. John Sly in March.

"That's really kind of insulting to Vermont actually. I take offense to it, being born and raised here," said Kylee Keith from Pittsford.

While the state is divided on the opiate issue, Rich Clark who conducted the WCAX poll for the Castleton Polling Institute says, he can pinpoint the turning point for some people.

"You go back to the Rolling Stone article that really captured the public's attention was in the south," he says.

When asked about the state's performance addressing opiate addiction, only 3 percent said it was doing an excellent job. 24 percent said Vermont was doing a good job. The biggest group gave the state less than stellar marks with 37 percent saying Vermont is doing a fair job and 25 percent saying its doing a poor job.

While more people in Southern Vermont are worried about opiates, the poll found that people in Northern and Central Vermont are more concerned about the economy and jobs.

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