Prescription drug abuse in Vermont is, like in every other state in the country, an epidemic and a challenge for lawmakers. The administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin wants to develop a plan to tackle the problem by early January.
“It’s grown so fast it’s like you’re in a tidal wave,” said Susan Bartlett, an aide to the governor. “We just want to make sure we can pull something together that will work. It needs to be real.”
A recent memo from the Vermont Health Department found that 5,900 people in Vermont received outpatient treatment for substance abuse problems. Many were addicted to prescription pain pills. More than half were people who were in jail. The memo also said that 127 people were on waiting lists for residential treatment programs, and another 445 were on waiting lists at the only two methadone clinics in Vermont – one in Burlington, the other one in St. Johnsbury.
“Those two things really shocked me,” said state Senator Richard Sears. “I expected the numbers to be much lower.”