Gov. Shumlin Focuses on Drug Addiction in State of the State Address

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin addressed lawmakers in his State of the State address on Wednesday.
MONTPELIER, Vt. - Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin addressed lawmakers in his State of the State address on Wednesday.

Gov. Shumlin says Vermont's economy is rebounding from the worst national recession since the depression, with unemployment being one of the lowest in the nation. Vermont leads the nation in high school graduation rates and Gov. Shumlin wants to expand pre-kindergarten and day-care programs across the state.

“We are so lucky to live in the best state in the Union, where people work hard, trust and take care of each other, and strive to keep Vermont a place where our children and grandchildren will grow up and thrive. The state of our state is strong and growing stronger,” the Governor said.

Gov. Shumlin focused much of the State of the State address on the growing crisis of drug addiction and drug-related crimes in the state.

Here some key points:
  • More than 771% increase in treatment for opiates since 2000.
  • Nearly 260% increase in people receiving heroin treatment since 2000. There has been a 40% increase, the greatest increase coming within the last year.
  • Twice the amount of federal indictments against heroin dealers in 2013 than the previous 2 years.
  • Almost double the amount of deaths from heroin and opiates in Vermont last year than in 2012.
“Vermont needs all of us, together, to drive toward our goal of recovery by working creatively, relentlessly, and without division,” said the Governor. “I am heartened by the tremendously dedicated leaders we have statewide to help.”

Here are Governor Shumlin's proposals on how to tackle the drug problem in the state of Vermont:
  • $200,000 to expand staffing and space at backlogged treatment centers, primarily in Chittenden County, the Northeast Kingdom and central Vermont. The goal is to eliminate that waiting list and ensure treatment services are immediately available to every Vermonter in need. In addition, more than $8 million in ongoing funding for treatment and recovery will be in the FY 2015 budget.
  • $650,000 for substance abuse and mental health treatment services for Reach Up recipients, a figure that jumps to more than $1 million when matched with federal funding.
  • $760,000 to implement evidence-based assessments and pre-trial services statewide to move addicted Vermonters who have committed certain crimes to support their habits into treatment when appropriate. The funding will permit State’s Attorneys to create intervention programs for those arrested, and will allow judges to review assessments and set conditions before trial that include treatment where appropriate. In both situations, resources to hold defendants accountable will be a key component.
  • Using a $10 million federal grant over five years awarded this past summer to help medical providers intervene earlier with patients who are beginning to experience problems due to their substance abuse, and using a separate federal grant to 21 of our supervisory unions to fund drug education for three years.
  • Using the Early Childhood Race to the Top $37 million federal grant to provide supportive services for families and to expand high-quality early childhood programs to give parents and children the skills needed to succeed and resist the pull of illegal substances.
  • Providing more than $2 million in new funding to tackle some of the challenges facing low-income Vermonters, including increased funding for rental subsidies and for supportive services, so that those in poverty have a better chance for economic security that will help fight the hopelessness that can help drive drug habits.
  • Real-time mapping of criminal activity to ensure state and local law enforcement is fully informed and targeting resources where needed. · Giving judges the option of tougher sentencing of individuals transporting drugs into our state, and supporting tougher sentences for those who use dangerous weapons to break into homes and steal property to support a habit.
  • $20,000 to ensure the cast of the Vermont-based film “The Hungry Heart,” telling the real story of drug-addicted Vermonters, visits every high school in the coming year to speak directly with students about their personal experiences and the dangers of addiction.
  • Reorganizing the Governor’s Criminal Justice Cabinet into a Criminal Justice and Substance Abuse Prevention Cabinet so that its membership reflects the broader challenges we face.

Shumlin says the best prevention is to provide a great education, good jobs, a thriving economy, and a good quality of life to all Vermonters.

Read the full text of Governor Shumlin State of the State Address.
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