Sep 2, 2015

Vermont battling opiate addiction by offering offenders treatment instead of prosecution

Vermont, one of the most rural states in the nation, is waging one of the most aggressive battles against opiates by offering "people who are picked up by police the choice of treatment instead of criminal prosecution," Elaine Povich reports for Stateline. Since making a January 2014 speech pledging to reduce opiate sales and use, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin has "signed bills and executive orders that included $6.7 million for a 'hub and spoke' treatment program of central facilities and small treatment outposts, a medication-assisted addiction therapy program, tougher sentences for drug traffickers and new regulations for prescribing and monitoring prescription drugs." 

The plan has been a huge success, with a state report saying that medically assisted drug treatment increased by 40 percent from January 2014 to January 2015, Povich writes. "Of those who completed treatment plans, 75 percent showed improved functioning. But the report also said more treatment opportunities are needed, citing the difficulty in hiring and retaining clinicians and other health care providers as a major obstacle." 

Shumlin told Pobich, "When I became governor, I kept having moms grab my jacket, or dads, or sons or daughters, saying addiction is going on in our families. So I went into the prisons, talked to addicts, recovery folks, I talked to law enforcement, to the judiciary, everybody I could talk to. And what I learned was that we were doing almost everything wrong. We seized the opportunity to change the system to one that deals with this as a disease, like cancer or kidney disease or any other health challenge." (Read more