Friday, January 10, 2014

VERMONT - Governor's State of the State Address on Heroin Crisis

"Vermont gov. confronts deadly heroin crisis as public health problem" PBS Newshour 1/9/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF:  A governor broke with tradition yesterday and devoted his entire state of the state address to drug addiction.

Peter Shumlin, the governor of Vermont, urged residents to open their eyes to the growing problem in their front yards, rather than leaving it only to law enforcement, medical personnel and addiction treatment providers.  Shumlin argued the facts speak for themselves.

In Vermont, since 2000, there has been a 770 percent increase in treatment for all opiates.  He stated: "What started as an OxyContin and prescription drug addiction problem in this state has now grown into a full-blown heroin crisis" and -- quote -- "Last year, we had nearly double the number of deaths in Vermont from heroin overdose as the previous year."

It turns out Vermont is not the only state facing this crisis.  According to the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, the number of deaths involving heroin surged 45 percent between 1999 and 2010.

For more on this, I'm joined by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and Huffington Post Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim.  He's also the author of the book "This Is Your Country on Drugs."
GOV. PETER SHUMLIN, D-Vt.:  And, listen, here's the challenge.  We have lost the war on drugs.  The notion that we can arrest our way out of this problem is yesterday's theory.

And, you know, the one thing Vermonters cherish is our quality of life, our safety, the fact that we're a state where we take care of each other, and that we know that our communities are safe and that we have a good quality of life.

And this compromises it.  So, as far as I'm concerned, this is one of the real battles that we're facing that we have got to win.  And we have got to do that by changing the discussion and changing the policy, so that we say that what heroin addicts and folks that are addicted to opiates are facing is a public health issue, not a crime issue.  And we have got to be willing to fight it from that vantage point.

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