After National Headlines, Vt. Gov. Calls for Action on Heroin Crisis

Published 04/08 2014 09:17PM

Updated 04/08 2014 10:19PM

NORTHFIELD, Vt. - Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin says it's time to move beyond the headlines and talk about solutions for the state's heroin crisis.

The governor and others want to make it clear it's not just Vermont dealing with heroin problems. While Vermont is getting a lot of attention for its crisis, the governor wants the state to lead the nation in finding fixes.

"The question for us is what are we going to do about it," says Shumlin.

Shumlin spoke at an event at Norwich University titled, "What Ails Vermont: Is There a Cure to the Drug Epidemic?"

Shumlin says sending drug addicts to treatment centers is less expensive and more effective than prison. But it means people realizing addicts are suffering from a disease.

"I sometimes struggle calling it a disease but I have to say when you live, breathe about getting your next high, it's a disease," says Colonel Thomas L'Esperance, Vermont State Police.

L'Esperance says they've shifted more police attention to drugs dealers.

Part of the problem is many drug addicts find their first fix in the medicine cabinet.

"50 to 60 percent of the people who take the first drug get it from friends and family. I think we need to start having that mindset that we're part of the problem, each and every one of us, and we're part of the solution," says Dr. Harry Chen, Vermont Department of Health commissioner.

Chen also called for more prevention and intervention.

But a Norwich criminal justice teacher, David Orrick, says fighting the drug war is a never ending battle involving changing drugs.

"My concern is frankly synthetic marijuana let alone the concern we got with the opiate problems right now. That's what I am worried about coming down the pike," says Orrick.

Shumlin has set a goal of no waiting lines for drug treament a year from now. He says that will save taxpayer's money, make the state more safe, and make sure every Vermonter has a better future.

The legislature is considering expanding treatment programs.

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