by Guy Page
State officials are refocusing efforts on reducing opioid overdose deaths, as a relatively new killer – a veterinary drug called xylazine – is killing Vermonters.
At his weekly media briefing yesterday, Governor Phil Scott highlighted available resources and new state investments passed this year to combat the opioid epidemic and support those with substance use disorder, including nearly $9 million in new investments for prevention, treatment and recovery.
Vermont experienced 210 opioid overdose deaths last year, the highest in state history. Through April 2022, 61 Vermonters have died of overdoses – just under the pace of 2021.
The unprecedented number of ODs is attributed to availability of fentanyl, a fast-acting, lethal synthetic opioid with ingredients mostly sourced from China. Compounded in Mexico, then smuggled across the southern border. Also, one-quarter of 2022 opioid ODs are from xylazine, a veterinary opioid not recommended for human use. The prevalence of xylazine was highlighted in a UVM report this week. It is often found in combination with fentanyl.
29 Vermont drug overdoses last year were attributed to xylazine, but the percentage is higher so far this year.
At the press conference, Scott reiterated his opposition to ‘safe injection centers,’ locations in which drug users may inject themselves without fear of arrest. New York City and other locations say they have reduced overdoses. But Scott (and others) are skeptical about their effectiveness in reducing drug use. Scott also said that rural drug users would be left out unless there is a center in almost every town.
“Will [drug users] drive from Milton to Burlington?,” Scott asked rhetorically.
Scott was joined by state leaders from the Department of Health, as well as representatives from the UVM Health Network, community prevention coalitions and health care providers.
In total, across all funds, the state budget this year invests $66.2 million for substance use programs at the Vermont Department of Health. This includes nearly $9 million in new or additional state funding for the following:
- $4 million to local and regional substance misuse prevention coalitions
- $2 million for substance use disorder treatment and recovery beds
- $1.2 million in rate increase for preferred providers to support treatment and recovery
- $1.54 million for recovery centers, employment services and regional recovery partners, like Jenna’s House
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, or in need of services, you can access the following resources and supports:
- Central Vermont Prevention Coalition (cvprevention.org)
- Central Vermont Treatment Partners (cvmc.org)
- Prevention Works VT (www.preventionworksvermont.org)
Categories: Drugs and Crime