In Vermont Battle to Save Residents from Heroin Addiction Replaces the “War on Drugs”
Date:  09-22-2014

Treatment, not incarceration, is Governor Peter Shumlin’s answer to an epidemic that is destroying lives and communities
Vermont has moved away from the failed war on drugs that America has been fruitlessly fighting for four decades. In a bold move Governor Peter Shumlin has looked past drug dealing in his state, although drug dealers will certainly continue to be targets of arrest, and focused instead on getting treatment for Vermont’s increasing number of heroin addicts.

Shumlin is serious about looking outside of the prison box for answers on how to keep the citizens of his state from becoming addicts. He and other concerned individuals realize that incarcerating an addict does nothing to stop an addict’s craving for heroin. According to Shumlin, addiction is a disease that needs treatment, not attempts to arrest the problem away.

Vermont certainly has a heroin problem that has become an epidemic.On January 8, 2014 Shumlin’s State of the State speech was entirely given over to the heroin epidemic overtaking Vermont. Shumlin elaborated on the seriousness of the issue, stating:

  • In Vermont, since 2000, we have seen a more than 770% increase in treatment for all opiates.

  • What started as an Oxycontin and prescription drug addiction problem in Vermont has now grown into a full-blown heroin crisis.

  • We have seen an over 250% increase in people receiving heroin treatment here in Vermont since 2000, with the greatest percentage increase, nearly 40%, in just the past year.

  • In 2013, there were twice as many federal indictments against heroin dealers than in the prior two years, and over five times as many as had been obtained in 2010.

  • Last year, we had nearly double the number of deaths in Vermont from heroin overdose as the prior year.

    Shumlin added “Nearly 80% of our incarcerated population are either addicted or in prison because of their addiction. And listen to this math: a week in prison in Vermont costs about $1,120, but $123 will buy a week of treatment for a heroin addict at a state-funded center. Today, our state government spends more to imprison Vermonters than we do to support our colleges and universities, and our prison spending has doubled in the last nine years. You do not have to be a math major to realize that we can’t afford our current path. We have to figure out how to spend taxpayer money more wisely, while we treat the disease more effectively.”

    Good Magazine reports that since his State of the State speech the governor has initiated measures that he hopes will help curb the heroin epidemic that is robbing the state of young lives. Good posted:

    “Rather than locking up addicts, the state is attempting to provide them opiate replacement drugs like Methadone and Suboxone and place them in treatment. Even addicts who are currently incarcerated will have better access to prescription drugs to help kick the habit. Meanwhile, the state is pouring more money into opening and operating rehabilitation centers and increasing prevention efforts in medical offices and schools. Vermont, as the governor’s words promised, is treating heroin addiction like a disease, rather than a crime.”

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