Vermont Governor Focuses State Of The State On Drug Abuse

By John Lavitt 01/10/14

Governor Peter Shumlin used his entire annual address to outline an ambitious plan to combat the state’s "full blown" heroin epidemic.

Gov. Peter Shumlin delivers his address. Photo via

On Wednesday, January 8, 2014, Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont focused his entire State of the State speech on the plague of opiate addiction ripping apart his state, detailing its cost in both lives and money while offering possible solutions.

In his address, Gov. Shumlin detailed the statistics about the heroin epidemic plaguing the Green Mountain State. Since 2000, Vermont has experienced a startling increase of more than 770 percent of people in treatment for opiate addictions with the numbers rising up to 4,300 people in 2012. On a weekly basis, more than $2 million worth of heroin and other opiates are illegally brought into Vermont and as a result, prison populations are rising with nearly 80 percent of inmates in the state being held on drug-related charges. “In every corner of our state, heroin and opiate drug addiction threatens us,” he said. “The time has come for us to stop quietly averting our eyes from the growing heroin addiction in our front yards while we fear and fight treatment facilities in our backyards.”

While his approach seeks tougher laws on drug dealers, Gov. Shumlin outlined a plan that placed a heavy reliance on treatment, education, and prevention. He pointed out that incarcerating addicts for a week costs the state $1,120, while a week of treatment at a state-financed center only costs $123. With over 500 addicts presently on waiting lists, Gov. Shumlin seeks a broad expansion of the availability of treatment programs.

Shumlin‘s address also included the following initiatives:

- $200,000 dedicated right away to allow treatment centers to staff up and reduce waiting lists.
- $760,000 in 2015 to allow courts to assess offenders and determine who would best benefit from treatment rather than prison.
- A plan to determine where drug hot spots are located in the state and how local resources should be deployed.
- A statewide forum later this year to share ideas on drug abuse prevention, education, and treatment options.

“The hope is that I can use my voice to speak the truth about a challenge that threatens to undermine the best quality of life of any state in the country and proactively confront it,” he said. “It is a crisis bubbling just beneath the surface that may be invisible to many but is already highly visible to law enforcement, medical personnel, social service and addiction treatment providers and too many Vermont families."

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.