Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed into law a comprehensive package of legislation designed to crack down on drug addiction and the crimes linked to abuse of prescription and other drugs, including methamphetamines. In addition, another new law provides limited immunity from liability for people who report an overdose to help reduce the number of drug- and alcohol-related deaths in Vermont.
"The Vermont Legislature moved quickly to pass bills taking aim at the abuse of drugs that are addicting Vermonters, ruining lives, and sparking crime that harms communities," the Governor said. "This new law is a significant move forward in our fight against substance abuse and I thank the Legislature for their hard work and initiative on this issue."
Joined by legislative leaders and others who worked to ensure passage of the legislation, Gov. Shumlin signed the measure into law at a Behavioral Health Network of Vermont Conference that was focused, in large part, on addiction issues.
Among the provisions, the new law implements standards for doctors to consult the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System to ensure patients are not doctor-shopping for their drugs. It also creates a pilot program for wider distribution of a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. In addition, the law calls for a proposal for a statewide disposal program for unused prescription medications so they don't fall into the wrong hands.
The law also:
Implements participation in a national database to track the sales of non-prescription, over-the-counter chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamines (this real-time monitoring can prevent the excessive sales of those chemicals to a purchaser);
Establishes an unused drug disposal protocol; and
Creates an outreach program by the Department of Public Safety to educate pawn shop owners and precious metal dealers about laws dealing with the purchase and sale of precious metals that might have been stolen in drug-related robberies.
In a related move, Gov. Shumlin also signed legislation providing limited immunity from liability for people who report an overdose, legislation informally known as the Good Samaritan Bill. In 2011, there were over 120 drug overdose deaths in Vermont attributed to drugs or alcohol. Advocates argue that some overdoses are not reported by others because of concerns they might be held liable for the drug sale or use.
Gov. Shumlin said it's important that these overdoses are reported as quickly as possible because victims might be saved by a prompt medical response.
"We cannot break our focus on this critical issue, because drug addiction harms not just the individuals ensnared in it but also our families and communities," Gov. Shumlin said. "I pledge to continue to work with mayors, law enforcement, medical and mental health experts and legislators to fight this problem, and will be focusing between now and January on the next steps in this battle."