As heroin dealer prosecutions drop, VT overdoses rise at highest rate in U.S.

CDC graphic

by Guy Page

Vermont drug overdoses in 2020 rose 64.7% over 2019 – the highest rate of increase in the nation, according to CDC figures.

In actual numbers, reported cases of drug overdoses went from 116 to 191. Overdoses increased 31% nationwide, the CDC said.

At his August 31 press conference, Gov. Scott acknowledged Vermont’s ongoing crisis of drug overdoses, attributing the problem to pandemic isolation: “unfortunately, there is no denying that over the last year and a half, overdoses have increased. With all the stresses from COVID, barriers to treatment, businesses closing and the uncertainty of the past 18 months, people with substance use disorder have been impacted significantly.”

Vermont’s OD rates would be significantly higher were it not for the availability of Narcan, an anti-overdose drug. Praising Vermont EMTs, Scott noted that “so far this year, they have helped distribute over 17,000 doses of Narcan, which saves lives.”

According to the Vermont Health Department Dashboard, the lion’s share of 2020 Vermont deaths were opioid/fentanyl-related. Total opioid non-suicide overdoses went from 114 in 2019 to 157 in 2020; fentanyl (a powerful synthetic opioid) deaths in the same category went from 98 to 139.

Meanwhile, prosecutions for heroin distribution dropped almost in half between 2018 and 2019, the latest year in which records are available. The raw-data dashboard notes the decline in prosecutions for selling heroin (266 to 136) and possession of heroin (263 to 231).

Notes accompanying the dashboard stats explain the growing use of fentanyl, but if anything seems to contradict the raw data showing that prosecutions for both sale and possession have declined:

“According to the 2018 National Heroin Threat Assessment, authored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), heroin remains available in New England. Heroin frequently includes fentanyl which is 50-100 times more potent than heroin and which has increasingly contributed to opioid fatalities. This is a change from 2015 when most heroin use was due in part to prescription opioid abusers transitioning to heroin because of the relative affordability and accessibility of heroin, versus prescription opioids. Heroin is transported to and around Vermont through various modes of public and private transportation.”

“Due to the increased availability of heroin within Vermont, law enforcement has increased efforts to combat the threat resulting in increased arrests for possession, delivery and trafficking heroin.”

Scott made no mention of law enforcement efforts in his August 31 speech about the opioid epidemic. Instead, he said that “Vermont has been a national model in working to overcome the opioid epidemic, but we know we need to refocus in this area because there is clearly much more to do. My team” – referring to two Agency of Human Services officials – “will continue to focus on getting Vermonters the support and stability they need.”

None of the state officials mentioned the impact of 1) marijuana legalization, long linked with use of ‘heavier’ drugs; 2) failed interdiction of drug smuggling on the southern U.S. border, or 3) of China’s role as a major source of fentanyl, as reported by China expert Gordon Chang, who will be speaking at VTGrassroots events in Montpelier on Friday and Williston on Saturday.

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11 replies »

  1. Again….just as with the high crime rates in Burlington…..WHO would have EVER guessed such a thing would happen???

    Of course, drugs, lack of incarceration, fear, mayhem, & chaos is exactly what these PROGRESSIVES want – It is MUCH easier to take over a country and transform it into a Socialist Dystopia under these conditions..

  2. “Vermont has been a national model in working to overcome the opioid epidemic”? Seriously?
    Phil, imitating anthony fauci’s rhetoric isn’t going to convince us of Vermont’s efforts to overcome anything. Your direction to the Attorney General and all the State’s Attorneys regarding aggressive prosecution of cases might be doing something. “Providing support and stability” sounds like biden discussing Afghanistan.
    Just maybe sending a clear anti drug message thru aggressive prosecutions might send that message. Close down the drug pipelines from western Mass and New York. Ignore the accusations of racism in policing, it’s a Red-Herring. While Phil Scott is trying to not offend anyone, the ship of state has some big holes to patch, the cost of addiction is huge- in people and dollars.

  3. Sadly, Vermonters spent around $150M to house homeless in hotels during the pandemic. Those settings became notorious drug markets. It was a setting of easy access to those who use and too much idle time on their hands mixed with a sense of despair.

    We face an upcoming dilemma as the cold weather approaches. Each town needs to prepare to take care of their own homeless pockets. Where will the 2700 homeless find accommodations this next winter. The hotels have closed their doors. Yes, state funds were set aside, but it includes renters that can’t find affordable housing and may face evictions for not keeping up with their rent during covid, adding to the homeless numbers.

    The homeless and potential evicted renters are very much at risk as future opioid overdose victims. I was at a service for 4 in that died this past winter due to overdoses and another where drug related violence caused the death.

  4. Reports from UVM faculty have stated that vehicular stops by Vermont law enforcement disproportionately target people of color. The Vermont Department of Health, some Vermont legislators, and VTDigger and Seven Days articles have detailed that the COVID pandemic disproportionately impacts people of color in Vermont (note: in actuality this depends upon what parameter is being measured).

    So the question I would ask: in terms of the “sale, delivery, or trafficking of heroin”, are there any statistics that detail exactly who (by race and ethnicity) is bringing in, and distributing, the drugs in Vermont?

  5. i admit it is easy for me to say we need to get back to the idea that everyone needs to be responsible for everything in their life. drugs are never going to make your life better.

  6. Joey and his DC gang have to help get the Taliban/Afghanistan terrorist funds going again…Can’t do that without the free flow of heroin in this country…And don’t forget Joe’s 10% & the CIA’s ?%…

  7. I’m wondering if this had anything to do with the stimulus checks that were handed out so freely?? How do you think they were going to spend that money?

  8. So vermont has the highest rate of increases in drug overdoses in 2020.
    Maybe that has something to do witht he fact that we are the least religious state in the union?

  9. The politicians are the cause. The voting public is to blame. They got what they voted for. I can’t stand the well to do driving their Teslas so they can virtue signal. Many of them elected not to have kids by abortion to save the planet. Does the planet look any better over the last few decades? The way you save the planet in their eyes is to prevent prosperity. You can’t stop it now so when the mobs come for you please don’t whimper because the mob doesn’t give a S#*%! BTW the legalization of Marijuana has proliferated its use. Not coincidentally, the rise in 30 year old with covid is epidemic. THC helps with arthritis, and other auto-immune diseases precisely because it suppresses the immune system. Therefore Marijuana causes people to become more susceptible to be overcome by Covid 19 variants. So please keep partaking so you can help save the planet.

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