State Of The State: Vermont One Year Later

A look in the rear view mirror…

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you may remember it was a year ago this week that we introduced you to Governor Peter Shumlin who used his entire 2014 State of the State address to speak to Vermont citizens about the heroin epidemic.

Governor Shumlin’s remarks last year garnered a lot of attention, not just in his state but across the nation. He asked that everyone get involved and to start by watching the documentary THE HUNGRY HEART. 

The film was by Bess O’Brien and it followed the day to day life of a Vermont pediatrician. The film had an impact on many people and has served as a powerful resource for many organizations. This past December it was announced THE HUNGRY HEART will be awarded the 2015 Media Award from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) at their national conference in Austin, TX in April 2015.

So now the question is, “What is the state of the opiate addiction epidemic today?”

Specifically, when Governor Shumlin took to the podium last week to deliver his 2015 State of the State address, did he talk about the heroin epidemic? The answer to that question is NO! But Mark Davis who reports for Vermont’s Independent Voice did some research to determine how much has changed since last year.

Here’s a bit of what Mr. Davis was able to determine about the current state of Vermont’s hub-and-spoke system which they use to treat drug addicts (the hubs are regional centers the spokes are primary care doctors):

  • Since January 2014 the state spent $6.7 million on additional hub staffing
  • In January 2014 there were 994 people waiting to be admitted for treatment, today that number is 523
  • The number of patients being treated at these hubs is currently 2,517, while last year at this time it was 1,482
  • Since last January every State Trooper and ambulance crew is equipped with Naloxone, which is used to revive overdose victims (this saved 100 Vermonters in 2014)
  • $760,000 was pledged to create programs for nonviolent drug addicts, keeping them out of the prison system and in treatment

Going forward the next step will be to increase the number of primary care physicians and have them complete the education needed to be able to dispense buprenorphine. According to the article:

‘Locally, officials say that more must be done to eliminate the treatment waiting list: Both the Howard Center and West Ridge are at full capacity. To ease the burden in 2015, more primary care doctors — the “spokes” in the system — are needed.

“There is a shortage of primary care physicians in Chittenden County who are willing,” [Bob] Bick said. To dispense buprenorphine, doctors must complete an eight-hour online course given by the federal government. Fewer than one in five primary care physicians in Vermont have taken that step, according to the health department.

“Our challenge in the next year is developing those spoke resources in the community in order to keep our front door open,” McKee said. “The model we would like to see is much more integrated … all primary care doctors need to do it.”‘

Some final thoughts…

It’s a new year. Most of us have made resolutions. Some of us want to lose weight, some want to start a new career, some want to read more books, or volunteer in some capacity in their communities. Some of us just want to be able sleep better or get along better with our children and our spouses.

It is interesting to see how much the State of Vermont has been able to accomplish in just one year. Check back next week and we will share one more interesting highlight of Rutland, VT’s Project Vision.

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