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DEB BUCKNAM’S
7-POINT OPIOID PLAN FOR HOPE

In 2014, Vermont pharmacists wrote over 500,000 opioid prescriptions in a state that has just over 600,000 people. The latest numbers show that opioid prescriptions are up from 482,000 in 2010 to just over 538,000 in 2014. While 80% of these prescriptions were to combat pain, the other 20% were to treat patients who were addicted to opiates, by giving them another opiate. Many doctors are well intentioned, but the problem continues to grow and persist. *

A 2015 report by the Vermont Department of Health found that emergency department visits and fatalities involving heroin are increasing. The number has jumped from 41 related opioid deaths in 2010 to 76 in 2015. Dr. Stephen Leffler of UVM Medical Center had said that they’ll see “5-7 overdoses in a night.” This pestilence is not being contained, but continues to spread. **

To truly understand this epidemic from all aspects, I have spent the last few months on a listening tour; engaging in this discussion with law enforcement officers, prosecutors, recovering addicts, their families, drug counselors and educators. Based upon these conversations, my own experiences representing families involved with this epidemic, and my campaign’s research, we have put together a plan that will address this crisis.

Coordination, communication, and cooperation is a vital part of government, which is why I have spent extensive time learning about this issue from a variety of sources and understanding Lt. Governor Phil Scott’s plan. When I’m Attorney General, I will work directly with Phil Scott to ensure that we do not duplicate efforts, and work in conjunction when necessary.

The Attorney General is well positioned to take the lead fighting this scourge with prevention tools such as law enforcement and education. The plan I have outlined below demonstrates how I will take the lead on this crucial issue as the next Attorney General. This task will not be easy, but Vermonters have faced other major challenges before, and together we can stop this pestilence in its tracks.

  1. We will immediately create a statewide task force to inventory and assess what programs and policies in the criminal justice system are working, what aren’t working, and what needs improvement. We will then work to implement best practices in our criminal justice system to ensure those suffering from opioid dependency get effective treatment, and the victims of crime get appropriate recompense. Programs such as the Vermont drug court in Burlington, federal drug court, family treatment court in St. Johnsbury, restorative justice programs, diversion, deferred sentences, probation, and incarceration for drug offenses, will be inventoried and analyzed for their effectiveness in returning those suffering from this disease to work toward becoming productive members of our society. The analysis will also include determining the effectiveness of the treatments ordered by courts or implemented by the Department of Corrections, such as inmate rehabilitation programs and the community-based ISAP program. Our office will then work with other agencies and the legislature to fund and expand the effective programs, while defunding and closing ineffective ones.
  2. The task force will analyze the medicated assisted treatment programs that involve the use of methadone and suboxone to determine their effectiveness and the risks of future abuse. The Attorney General’s office will then propose reforms to ensure access to those in need, while reducing the incidence of abuse.
  3. Our office will review and analyze the law to determine what additional reforms are needed to enhance the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate, detain, and ultimately convict drug traffickers. Traffickers will fear the Attorney General’s office, by us showing them that Vermont is a risky place to do business. We will take the lead in working with the legislature and the governor to enact those laws.
  4. When possible we will implement a coordinated and collaborative approach to prosecution of drug traffickers. We will analyze how drug crimes are prosecuted in the federal and state system, and how policies and practices can be coordinated among the State’s Attorneys, the Attorney General’s office and the US Attorney. Coordinated and consistent prosecution will make it riskier for drug traffickers to continue their profitable business here in Vermont.
  5. We will work with other agencies in state government to implement a robust education program for parents on the dangers of opioid abuse, and how to prevent their children from becoming future addicts. Children are most at risk for developing these harmful habits, which is why we need to take a comprehensive approach to prevention.
  6. In 2013, the legislature passed a law authorizing that the Agency of Education “develop a sequential alcohol and drug abuse prevention education curriculum for elementary and secondary schools.” The Agency has not responded with a comprehensive program. As other Attorneys General have done across the country, we will coordinate with other state agencies to first analyze effective programs, followed by implementing statewide educational programs in our schools. Effective programs will likely include the use of those suffering from addiction and dependency, their families, the recovery community, drug and alcohol counselors, and law enforcement as resources to demonstrate to our children the dangers of drug abuse. These programs must be provided to children as young as kindergarten to be effective. If other agencies cannot or will not step up to the plate, we will.

    7.  We will monitor the effectiveness of the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System, and the amendments passed under Act 173. We will work with the new Control Substances and Pain Management Council to establish effective regulations. We will diligently work with the legislature to pass any additional measures to monitor and regulate opioid based prescription drugs.

*http://www.wcax.com/story/31639905/how- vt-plans-to- fight-opiate-addiction-epidemic**http://healthvermont.gov/adap/treatment/opioids/documents/data_brief_opioid_misuse_abuse_dependence_201507.pdf