Governor Phil Scott joined Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch in welcoming a $2 million federal grant to increase access to opioid misuse prevention, treatment and recovery services for Vermonters.
In a letter to Gov. Scott, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the funding is the first of two rounds as provided for in the 21st Century Cures Act. The funds will be allocated through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Governor Scott said he and the state's health officials welcome this critical support for Vermont's prevention, treatment, recovery and enforcement efforts. "We are taking a comprehensive approach, and this funding will help strengthen our ability to effectively address the opioid crisis in our state," said Gov. Scott. "I appreciate the commitment of Secretary Price, and the indispensable work of our congressional delegation, to helping Vermont and the nation confront these considerable challenges."
The grant will be used to enhance Vermont's public and nonprofit partnerships, increase peer recovery support for Vermonters with opioid abuse disorders, build community education programs and implement programs to stop diversion of prescription drugs for illicit use.
In a joint statement, Sens. Leahy and Sanders, and Rep. Welch said, "This new funding will strengthen efforts already underway in Vermont to address the opioid crisis. Our state, like so many others, faces extraordinary challenges resulting from an influx of heroin and fentanyl on a scale that we have never seen before. In Washington, we are fighting to commit the resources needed to address this crisis head-on, and to support smart policies that reduce the demand for these drugs. We look forward to working with Governor Scott and his team to help those in need. We owe it to Vermonters to get this right."
According to the HHS letter, grants are being awarded to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories and the free associated states of Palau and Micronesia. The amounts are based upon rates of overdose deaths and unmet need for opioid addiction treatment.
In 2016, there were 106 accidental and undetermined opioid-related fatalities in Vermont -- a 41 percent increase from 2015. Since 2010, opioid-related deaths have more than doubled.
In January, Gov. Scott established an Opioid Coordination Council and appointed a Director of Drug Policy Prevention, Jolinda LaClair, to lead and strengthen Vermont's response to the opioid crisis through enhanced coordination between state and local governments.