BURLINGTON, Vt. – Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery centers have struggled to meet the demand for substance-abuse treatment and other services.

Vermont’s Turning Point Center launched a new fundraising campaign, called the ‘Perfect Storm,’ to raise $250,000 by October 31. “What was struggling before has become serious pain for people, and we’re calling attention to it for the people of Burlington, to our state officials and our city officials,” said Executive Director Jesse Bunch.

Bunch said recovery centers could use a fundraising boost more than ever. In 2020, 157 people died from opioid-related overdose, up from 114 in 2019, according to the Vermont Department of Health. Through May, the state recorded at least 80 opioid-related deaths, compared to 60 in the first five months of 2020. More than two dozen people died from overdose in March, the highest in a single month in recent years.

Meanwhile, Bunch says some grants have been cut and the usual funding hasn’t kept up with the demand for services.

“The situation is different,” Bunch said. “There are more people with worse conditions, and therefore the grant funding that has been available in the past is not sufficient.”

The Turning Point Center and other lifelines are also dealing with the same staffing issues many businesses have seen during the pandemic.

“The community services throughout Chittenden County are back, but many of them have lost personnel, many of them are closed, or they’re serving partial capacity of what they’ve had before,” Bunch said.

Because of the ongoing safety concerns with the Delta variant, the Turning Point Center hasn’t been able to host in-person fundraising events this year, but it’s not stopping them from trying to make this push virtually.

Bunch said the $250,000 would go a long way, particularly when it comes to recruiting new recovery coaches.

“Those recovery coaches are individuals in longterm recovery who have gone through it themselves, they understand the services in the community, and they become the sounding board and assistants to an individual.”

More than two dozen people in Chittenden County have died from overdose in 2021, and Bunch said it’s time to do something about it.

“It’s a challenge for all of us, and I believe that in Chittenden County over the next few weeks, you’re going to see enormous awareness and recognition that this problem has gotten worse, and we’re going to be determined as a community to do something about it.”

You can contribute online or send a check to the Center at 179 South Winooski Avenue, Suite 301, Burlington, VT 05401.