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Advocates push for bills to stem opioid overdose crisis

Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 4:41 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 7:23 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s attorney general and other advocates are throwing their support behind a slate of bills that seek to tackle the drug overdose crisis.

The number of overdose deaths in the state is on the rise, a problem many say was made worse by the pandemic. Officials say 134 people died in 2020 compared to 99 in 2019.

Lawmakers are now highlighting a slate of bills that seek to curb overdose deaths and incentivize treatment. The bills would create safe consumption sites for drugs; provide more naloxone, an opioid-overdose antidote; increase access to fentanyl test strips; and provide additional support for people battling substance use disorders.

“I understand the criminal justice system needs to be smaller, more flexible when it addresses this issue and how it interacts with our public health system, because a jail cell does not solve addiction,” said Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan.

Another of the bills would decriminalize several hallucinogenic drugs similar to a measure in Oregon, but Donovan says he does not support that proposal.

CHALLENGES OF PROVIDING SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT DURING PANDEMIC

We spoke with Peter Mallary with Recovery Vermont, and Tracy Hauck with The Turning Point Center of Rutland, about the challenges the pandemic has added to substance abuse treatment. Watch the video below.

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