Post-pandemic substance misuse has grown exponentially in Vermont. On Thursday, Governor Phil Scott and Dr. Mark Levine discussed new investments the state is making into relieving the strain the opioid crisis has left on Vermonters.

Under Scott’s administration, the State of Vermont provided funding to help grow their substance prevention and treatment programs. Scott said the pandemic created a setback in addressing these issues but now hopes people suffering from substance abuse will be able to find the help they need.

“Just this year, we’ve invested nearly $9 million more to address substance use disorder here in Vermont,” said Scott. “It’s important we approach this from all angles, which is why this new funding covers prevention, treatment, and recovery.”

He says these funds will be used to build upon systems of care and expand the services Vermont offers for substance abuse and addiction.

Meanwhile, Democratic nominee for Governor, Brenda Siegel, discussed what she would like to focus on. “We have to focus on harm reduction first, treatment and recovery on demand, including medically assisted treatment on demand, dual diagnosis support and criminal justice reform,” said Siegel. “So vetoes of massive overdose crisis response bills that are over learning more, that are over studies, are not acceptable in a time where we have seen the most overdose deaths in the history of our state.”

Dr. Levine said that opioid-related deaths increased 34.5% in 2021, which is the highest rate Vermont has seen. “Our focus is to restore the statewide network and safety nets that had us bending the curve on substance use and overdoses.”

Rural areas in Vermont have a tougher time getting access to substance related resources, but Melanie Sheehan of Mount Ascutney Hospital says that factor will hopefully change. “Until now, Vermonters have not had equal access to an opportunity to prevention resources, either geographically or programmatically. So these investments will help stabilize the prevention infrastructure across the state.”

Scott says he believes the state response to the opioid crisis can be strengthened.