The Fix: Windsor County leads state for overdose deaths

Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 5:11 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2021 at 5:12 PM EST
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HARTFORD, Vt. (WCAX) - According to the most recent statistics for 2020 that chart overdose death in Vermont through October, Windsor County is leading the way.

“We are very concerned about the overdoses that are happening,” said Sheila Young.

Young is on the front lines of addiction. She runs the Upper Valley Turning Point, an outreach agency for those struggling with substance abuse.

“I think that we have a lot of people in hotels, in different hotels,” Young said.

It’s one of several factors that contribute to an increase in opioid-related deaths in the area. Last year, through the end of October, there were 123 fatal overdoses among Vermont residents. Twenty-one of them were in Windsor County which is more than any other county in the state.

“The two highways cross here, 89 and 91, so I think we have trafficking coming from two different directions perhaps,” Young said.

Law enforcement officers agree. They say the county’s geographic location alone makes it a prime drop-off spot for dealers.

“We also know that suppliers and drug dealers have modified their processes and how they are working to bring drugs to people who are demanding them,” Hartford Police Chief Phillip Kasten said.

Area police departments work with crisis agencies to get people the help they need but they say the pandemic has also taxed resources.

“Resources that at times would have gone to focus on reducing opioid use, oftentimes are now rechanneled,” Kasten said.

But there’s a bigger issue at play, according to the experts.

“Quite frankly I think the biggest problem is the stigma and the fact that people who have a substance use disorder probably think of themselves as bad people who don’t deserve to get well,” Young said.

Just this past weekend, Young was notified of at least two additional overdoses in the area. Luckily, she says they were not fatal and crisis counselors have been called.

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