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Monday, January 13, 2014

Vermont Governor Battles Heroin Addiction

English: Pre-war Bayer heroin bottle, original...
Vermont, one of the smallest states in the country, is being devastated by heroin and opiate addiction. Governor Peter Shumlin says the state in the midst of a “full-blown heroin crisis,” The New York Times reports.

In 2013, the number of people who died in Vermont from heroin overdoses is almost double from the previous year. Experts believe that the rise in overdoses is the result of people exchanging prescription opiates for heroin, as prescription drugs have become harder to acquire.

In the annual State of the State Message, the Governor made drug addiction the focal point, asking for officials to respond to addiction as a chronic disease. Rather than treating addicts with punishment and fear of incarceration, Shumlin wants officials to address the problem with treatment and support.

“In every corner of our state, heroin and opiate drug addiction threatens us,” he said. “The time has come for us to stop quietly averting our eyes from the growing heroin addiction in our front yards, while we fear and fight treatment facilities in our backyards.”

More than $2 million worth of heroin and other opiates are smuggled across the state-line into Vermont every week; Shumlin is calling for tougher laws for high-volume drug dealers. Vermont is a low crime state; it is not surprising that almost 80 percent of the state’s inmates are locked up due to drug-related charges.

The Governor believes that treatment is more cost-effective than jail and he is asking for more funding to address the problem. He is in favor of allowing addicts to receive treatment upon arrest rather than waiting for sentencing.
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