When you think ‘Vermont’ you probably picture the soft-powder ski slopes, quaint villages, and locals sipping craft beer. Vermont is also known currently for having one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. But there’s something much darker going on – Vermont is struggling with severe painkiller and heroin abuse that is fanning the flames of increased crime and leaving lives and families devastated.
Vermont is now, according to federal statistics, ranked among the top 10 states for the abuse of painkillers and illicit drugs (other than marijuana) including heroin for people ages 18 to 25.
Nearly every day, police across Vermont are responding to burglaries or armed robberies investigators believe are prompted by the insatiable hunger for money to feed their heroin or pill habits. And just like we’ve seen in other states, such as Ohio and Florida (to name only 2 of the many), this is a progression of drug abuse that first started with the abuse of prescription drugs that then has graduated to heroin use because it’s a less expensive and more accessible drug.
In the News: Vermont’s Heroin Epidemic Prompts Action
Here are some more startling statistics:
- The Vermont Health Department reports that Vermont ranks second in the country for the number of people being treated for opiate abuse.
- A study released by the Justice Center of the Council on State Governments, the number of serious drug crimes rose 46% in the past five years.
- Last year, the number overdose deaths due to heroin almost doubled, increasing from nine to 17.
- The number of heroin dealers indicted by Vermont’s federal prosecutors increased more than five times between 2010 and 2013.
- Between 2009 and 2012, the number of reports of drug-related suspected child abuse or neglect to the Vermont Department of Children and Families increased about 38%.
Call to Action
Vermont governor Gov. Peter Shumlin did something a little unusual – he devoted almost his entire State of the State address to the current heroin epidemic that is wracking the state. Shumlin described the drug abuse problem as a “crisis bubbling just beneath the surface” that calls for the Legislature to pass laws that encourage treatment. The governor also sought ideas on the best way to prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place. Shumlin is also calling for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers and people who use weapons in the commission of drug-related crimes.
Focus on Treatment, Harsher Penalties
Governor Shumlin wants the Vermont Legislature to expand state treatment and recovery programs and to create a system addicts are given access to treatment immediately after their first offense or contact with law enforcement. Shumlin also wants to focus on prevention – to look at ways to keep people from becoming addicted to drugs in the first place.
Vermont Governor Shumlin, who is a Democrat, is proposing new spending upwards of several million dollars in order to help support the proposals. Shumlin is set to reveal a budget proposal this coming week that may have details on how to pay for these proposals. If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin abuse, heroin addiction or any other substance abuse and addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.