Burlington mayor calls for ‘new chapter’ in opioid fight

Local News

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is calling for a “new chapter” in the fight against opioids.

Speaking at the 10th Annual Turning Point Center Benefit Dinner, Weinberger highlighted recent progress in Chittenden County but said it’s not the time to let up. Weinberger was the recipient of the organization’s ‘Circle of Stars’ award.

“It is a chapter focused on supporting sustained recovery,” Weinberger said. “Our focus has been on supplementing the ‘hub and spoke’ architecture by setting up low-barrier nodes into treatment.”

Vermont’s ‘hub and spoke’ model is credited with eliminating long wait lists for medication-assisted treatment, which experts say is the most effective way to reduce addiction rates and overdose deaths.

Low-barrier ‘nodes’ are locations where people suffering from opioid use disorder can begin the process of receiving medication-assisted treatment. In their data-driven approach, Weinberger and the Chittenden County Opioid Alliance have concluded that adding more ‘nodes’ in places where those battling addiction tend to be would create easier access to treatment.

“The University of Vermont Medical Center, the needle exchange at the Howard Center, the Burlington Police Department and every prison in the state are now effectively functioning as new ‘nodes’ into treatment,” Weinberger said.

The Turning Point Center has embedded training coaches at UVM Medical Center that are available around the clock, a measure that Weinberger called a “spectacular accomplishment.”

“It is a function of the fact that the Turning Point Center has done a remarkable job over the last decade to professionalize and expand peer counseling and it is fundamentally changing all substance use recovery,” Weinberger said.

It was also revealed that preliminary data suggests Chittenden County’s recent decline in opioid-related deaths has continued into 2019.

In February, state health officials said there were 17 opioid overdose deaths in Chittenden County in 2018 — the fewest since at least 2013, when the state began publishing county-by-county fatality figures. In 2017, there were 34 deaths in Chittenden County. 

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, who received the 2014 ‘Circle of Stars’ award, commended the work of the Turning Point Center during his remarks at the benefit dinner. The organization recently moved to a new building.

“When I went there a few weeks ago, it was nothing short of inspiring,” Donovan said. “There was a yoga class just getting started, there were groups and meetings, in short, it was a community gathering spot where nobody was judged or asked questions, people were just gathering.”

The Turning Point Center provides recovery support services for individuals and families in a “safe, substance-free environment”.

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