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3 Dead, 4 Saved from Overdoses Last Month

Three drug overdose deaths in Addison County have officials concerned. At the same time, a new program is saving others.
COLCHESTER, Vt. - Vermont State Police and health leaders say Addison County drug users were duped. They say in January three people thought they were buying heroin, but instead got pure fentanyl, an even more powerful drug. It was a deadly mistake.

"Three in one month is a significant amount of overdoes related to one drug in a specific area," Lt. Matthew Birmingham of the Vermont State Police said. “We want to make it real clear to everybody that this stuff is extremely dangerous, it’s fifty times more powerful than heroin."

Fentanyl is a painkiller typically used in hospitals. State police are still trying to figure out exactly how it was packaged, and how it got in Vermont.

"It's certainly something we are aggressively investigating to ensure no one else dies as a result of this," Lt. Birmingham said.

Just as we learn about these new problems in Addison County, there is some encouraging news. A new state pilot program to curb drug overdoses is already saving lives.

Burlington's HowardCenter is one of just two sites in Vermont now distributing narcan to drug users, their friends, and family. Narcan is a medication that can reverse the effects of opiate overdoses.

"We've only been distributing the medication for about a month and in the first week, first weekend actually, someone was saved as a result of that distribution, and subsequent to that three additional lives have been saved,” Bob Bick said.

As of now Bick, HowardCenter’s Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, says each recipient is given two units of narcan.

He fears that may not be enough to save someone from a more dangerous drug like fentanyl. "There's been some national data that would suggest that because of the potency of fentanyl that you would actually need to use more in order to reverse the effects of an overdose,” he said.

Burlington's HowardCenter says for now there is no additional outreach effort in Addison County, but it may be requested by the state if more cases develop soon.
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