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Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomma/4906491235/">Thomas Marthinsen</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Thomas Marthinsen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

How Vermont is attacking heroin abuse with public health

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This week, NCPR is looking at how New York is beginning to grapple with the heroin epidemic in rural areas like the North Country (more stories). We thought it would be helpful to see what a state that's ahead of New York is doing.

At the beginning of this year, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin broke with tradition in a very unusual way. Instead of previewing a broad agenda for the year in his State of the State address, he dedicated the 35-minute speech to one issue: heroin and opiate addiction.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

Shumlin said an epidemic threatened all Vermonters. "It is a crisis bubbling just beneath the surface that may be invisible to many," Shumlin said before the state legislature, "but is already highly visible to law enforcement, medical personnel, social service and addiction treatment providers, and too many Vermont families. It requires all of us to take action before the quality of life that we cherish so much is compromised."

The surge in drug addiction in Vermont started about a decade ago, as people became hooked on prescribed opiates like Oxycontin. Many of them moved on to heroin because it was cheap.

Taylor Dobbs has been covering opiate addiction for Vermont Public Radio. He says Vermont is trying to get ahead of the problem by creating hubs of experts who can address the range of issues addiction causes in small communities, including drug treatment, job training programs, and law enforcement liaisons.

"These are all people from different backgrounds that serve the community," Dobbs says, "but they come at it from different angles. Because they're able to co-locate, you can have a bunch of services in a small community being rendered in one office."

Click 'listen' to hear David Sommerstein's interview with VPR's Taylor Dobbs.

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