Rally at Statehouse aims to raise awareness about overdoses in Vermont

Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 6:23 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Dozens of people gathered on the lawn of the Statehouse in Montpelier on Wednesday to bring attention to a growing problem in Vermont.

The rally coincides with International Overdose Awareness Day. Organizers say the gathering is part of the healing process and advocacy for overdose prevention measures in the states.

Kim Blake knows what that grief feels like. Wearing her late son’s hat, she told us all about the light of her world, Sean, who overdosed in 2017.

Now, Blake, runs Vermont’s chapter of Team Sharing, a resource for those who have lost loved ones to overdoses.

”He was a very charismatic, very happy and just lovely individual,” Blake continued.

There were tables from various resources and groups, such as the Vermont Overdose Prevention Network and Team Sharing Vermont.

The Department of Health says there were 210 overdose deaths in the state last year, and many at the event said those deaths were preventable.

“We can all talk about use together, without judgment and stigma about the ways we might be using because, honestly, overdose does not discriminate,” said Theresa Vezina with Vermont Cares.

While Vermont has more substance use resources than most states, advocates still hope to see more harm reduction strategies implemented.

”We could look at mobile units for prescribing and dispensing medications for opioid use disorder, certainly we could do more safe syringe provision,” said Ed Baker with the Vermont Overdose Prevention Network.

They also ask that barriers to treatment be removed. For example, the removal of prior authorizations on buprenorphine

“Which means that when someone comes in and needs treatment in this moment, we have to ask the state to get approved, then we often get denied and have to ask the state, and many times we lost them,” said Andy Seaman with Better Life Partners.

While the push for change is real, those at this event remind people everyone should be celebrated, no matter where they are in life.