ST. ALBANS – If there was a unifying theme during Friday afternoon’s roundtable at the St. Albans BAART clinic, it was that addressing the opioid crisis was a community-wide challenge with no easy answers.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., hosted a roundtable discussion with community leaders to highlight the work being done at a state and local level to confront opioid addiction in Franklin County and gauge his role as a Congressman in the wider opioid crisis.

In the state of Vermont, progress is being made on addressing the opioid crisis, according to Vermont Commissioner of Health Mark Levine. Through programs like needle exchange and messaging, the state looks ready to see a turnaround on the number of overdoses, he said with a slight hesitation.

“The final numbers aren’t there. Our overdose death rate year-to-year should not be tremendously worse than last year, but I can’t promise it’ll be better,” Levine said. “But it’s better to plateau than [to keep rising].”

The opioid crisis, which refers to a dramatic surge in prescription painkiller and heroin addiction that’s overtaken the United States in recent years, continues to take a toll on Vermont communities. Even with a more pragmatic approach on the part of the state managing to slow the escalation of opioid addiction, roughly two Vermont residents die of accidental overdoses every week, according to Levine.

“I always like to say this is a marathon, not a sprint,” Levine said. “We have a long way to go.”

Treatment – which Levine warned is “funded on a shoestring budget” – alone isn’t enough to stem a user’s addiction, he added. Recovery needs to include the patient’s support systems and livelihood, as well.


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