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News >  Health

Vermont opioid deaths jump nearly 160 percent, report shows

By Lisa Rathke Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Deaths from opioid-related overdoses jumped nearly 160 percent in Vermont between 2010 and 2016 and continue to rise while more than half of the 266 young children in state custody are there due to opioid abuse issues, according to a draft report from the governor’s opioid council formed to bolster the state’s response to the crisis.

Among the strategies the Vermont Opioid Coordination Council plans to recommend in the coming weeks are developing a continuum of care for pregnant women with substance use disorders and their young children and families; expanding the number of state residents in recovery who have jobs; and implementing a statewide system for delivery of school-based prevention programs.

The council, created by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, also will recommend expanding medication-assisted treatment in correctional facilities, creating a drug prevention messaging campaign, increasing drug trafficking investigations and pursuing roadside drugged-driving testing, according to the draft report obtained by the Associated Press on Tuesday.

“We want to always reduce the supply of illicit drugs,” said Jolinda LaClair, the state’s director of drug prevention policy, who oversees the council. “We want to reduce the number of people ever trying these drugs, and that means enhancing our prevention programming, our prevention messaging.”

The report, based on the council’s findings in its first six months of work, noted that Vermont has made progress in attacking the problem with its prescription monitoring system, new rules for prescribers, patient and prescriber education and its nationally recognized hub and spoke treatment system, comprised of regional treatment centers as hubs and clinicians who treat opioid use disorders in their own practices as spokes.

“The next steps, however, are critical,” the report said.

Many of the strategies call for a working group or committee to convene to come up with a plan for carrying out the strategy. That work may require doing an inventory of existing programs and making sure they’re reaching the people who need them, LaClair said.

“I think that many things are moving in the right direction,” she said. “It is a matter of connecting the resources, better connecting the resources across state government and from the public sector and the nonprofit sector to people in communities wherever they are.”

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