Vermont in line to get more opioid abuse prevention funding

Published: Apr. 30, 2018 at 11:38 AM EDT
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"In our little state, our special state, this should not be happening," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

Leahy says more than $4 million is heading to Vermont to combat opiate addiction. It's funding the senior senator says he's fought for.

"I'll get you the money. I can do that, but the money is only part of it," Leahy said. "It's going to be the men and women who work at it."

The new funding will help with treatment, recovery and enforcement. Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says prevention and recovery are essential to easing the addiction crisis.

"Most importantly, we can pay renewed and increased attention to the entire process of recovery and all of our programs," Levine said.

Levine says the state has eliminated waitlists for those seeking treatment. There are about 9,000 Vermonters in treatment. But he estimates up to 30,000 Vermonters are addicted. Access to treatment is an important step.

"Just the opportunity to be referred into treatment and know there's a plan for you is pretty much limited to Vermont and a few other states," Levine said.

Whether the state's investments are working is unknown. Fatal overdoses increased 30 percent in 2016, but just 5 percent in 2017. Officials say they're hopeful 2018 will be better. The state is cracking down on heroin dealers, too.

"As a direct result of the additional investigators assigned to the drug task force, we're seeing an increase in the number of investigations that eventually result in prosecution," Vt. State Police Col. Matthew Birmingham said.

Dr. Anne Johnston from the UVM Children's Hospital says the additional federal funding is important for the state's children. She says addicted babies develop fine, but if their parents don't recover, they face future challenges.