Government Health Upriser

Vermont Quits War On Drugs To Treat Heroin Abuse As Health Issue

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Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is urging his legislature to approve a new set of drug policies that go beyond the never-ending cat-and-mouse between cops and drug dealers.

His proposal is not to allow high level traffickers a free ride. “Leniency won’t apply to traffickers or major drug suppliers. “The culture hasn’t shifted if you’re a heroin dealer,” says South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple. “If you’re trafficking hundreds of bags of heroin a day in our community, we’re probably not going to [think] much about, you know, ‘How can we help you?’ ””

Along with a crackdown on traffickers, he proposed rigorous addiction prevention programs in schools and doctors’ offices, as well as more rehabilitation options for addicts. “We must address it as a public health crisis,” Shumlin said, “providing treatment and support rather than simply doling out punishment, claiming victory, and moving on to our next conviction.”

Vermont has passed a battery of reforms that have turned the tiny state of about 627,000 people into a national proving ground for a less punitive approach to getting hard drugs under control. Under policies now in effect or soon to take hold, people caught using or in possession of heroin will be offered the chance to avoid prosecution by enrolling in treatment. Addicts, including some prisoners, will have greater access to synthetic heroin substitutes to help them reduce their dependency on illegal narcotics or kick the habit. A good Samaritan law will shield heroin users from arrest when they call an ambulance to help someone who’s overdosed. The drug naloxone, which can reverse the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose, will be carried by cops, EMTs, and state troopers. It will also be available at pharmacies without a prescription. “This is an experiment,” Shumlin says. “And we’re not going to really know the results for a while.”


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“Vermont Quits War On Drugs To Treat Heroin Abuse As Health Issue”