BURLINGTON -- Gov. Peter Shumlin and Health Commissioner Harry Chen announced on Friday that Vermont will get a $10 million federal grant to expand early intervention and treatment programs for young adults at risk of alcohol and drug abuse.

The grant will fund a five-year project for screening, intervention, referral and treatment as part of regular health care for residents 18 or older. The goal is for substance and alcohol abuse screening to become a routine part of health care, just like screening for high blood pressure or cholesterol, a news release on grant award said.

"We all know that the best way to avoid addiction is to prevent addiction in the first place," Shumlin said.

The services will be available at 10 sites around Vermont with a goal of reaching about 90,000 Vermonters by 2018. One site, the Community Health Center in Burlington, is expected to start implementing the program within weeks.

"A chronic disease"

Other providers scheduled to start this year include The Health Center in Plainfield, Northern Tier Center for Health, Bennington Free Clinic, Rutland Free Clinic, People's Health and Wellness Clinic in Barre and Central Vermont Medical Center Emergency Department in Berlin.

Shumlin commended police efforts to address drug abuse but said the flow of new addicts needed to be addressed. He cited the problem of heroin abuse in Vermont in his State of the State remarks last month. But while he expressed concern over drug-related crimes, he said that "addiction is, at its core, a chronic disease."

"None of us have the silver bullet to best deal with this crisis," Shumlin said. "What I can tell you is that we've been trying the singular path of law enforcement for decades and we've been losing the battle. So what we're trying to do in Vermont is find a new way of dealing with a crisis and a battle that we're losing."

Vermont is one of five states selected to receive the grant money administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The four others are Ohio, New Mexico, New York, and South Carolina.