Number of Heroin Deaths Continues to Rise in Vermont Even as Treatment Expands

The number of deaths from heroin is rising in Vermont, even though about 40 percent more people in the state are seeking treatment for addiction compared with a year ago.

After Governor Peter Shumlin devoted his 2014 State of the State address to what he termed a “full-blown heroin crisis” in Vermont, the state legislature enacted many initiatives to address the problem, The New York Times reports. Addiction clinics received a one-time grant to help them reduce the size of their waiting lists.

In 2014, the number of deaths involving heroin reached 35, up from 21 the previous year, according to state health department records.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” said Dr. Harry Chen, Vermont’s Health Commissioner. “Even if we almost double the number of people in treatment, for each person who seeks it, there are probably 10 others who need it.” He said it will take time for the state’s efforts to have an effect. “You don’t see immediate results,” he said. “But I still think we’re on the right track.”

State spending for methadone and buprenorphine treatments for opioid addiction has increased, from $8.7 million in 2014 to $13.3 million this year. Governor Shumlin has proposed raising the amount to $18.2 million in 2016. The state has enacted a Good Samaritan law, which provides immunity to anyone who calls for medical assistance if someone has overdosed.

All emergency medical workers and community clinics now have access to the opioid-overdose antidote naloxone. The antidote is also available over-the-counter at pharmacies. Pilot programs in four counties are sending people addicted to drugs who commit minor crimes to treatment centers instead of jail.

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    John Byrom

    February 25, 2015 at 6:31 PM

    Vermont has the worst heroin problem in the country and now the legilature is going to pass recreational marijuana. Get ready for a whole lot more heroin addicts.

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