Community Leaders Meet for Forum on Opiate Addiction

Published 06/16 2014 04:20PM

Updated 06/16 2014 06:17PM

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Hundreds of community leaders joined forces in the battle against opiate addiction at the Statehouse Monday.

In a room full of people trying to treat drug addictions the voice that spoke loudest was from the person who is beating it.

“Being an addict does define me and being an addict in recovery is pretty much everything you need to know about me,” Raina Lowell said.

Lowell is also a mother and Vermonter. Her story is becoming more common across the state.

“Opiates surpassed alcohol for the first time in 2013 as the primary drug for people in treatment,” Vermont Health Commissioner Harry Chen said.

“I actually never thought I’d ever see that but it's here.”

In 2013 about 4,000 Vermonters received state assisted treatment for opiate addictions up from just under 400 in 2000.

While that speaks to a growing problem it is also due to the creation of more treatment centers across Vermont.

State police say there have also been more opiate related arrests in the past few years.

In an effort to help addicts state lawmakers passed a bill that will allow low level offenders to enter addiction therapy instead of jail.

“We say how can we get you that treatment right now,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said.

Some local leaders say there were step backs too. Rutland Mayor Chris Louras says he was disappointed to see a bill fail that would allow law enforcement more access to prescription drug monitoring.

“And in this chamber they chose not to go the way the senate or the governor did,” Louras said.

From here everyone heads home with notes and ideas about how to fight addiction in their community. It’s a battle they believe they can win but one that will take time.

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