BENNINGTON -- Following up on a statewide heroin forum, about 32 people representing 15 organizations met at the Community College of Vermont in Bennington on Thursday to plan their next steps and decide what can be done now about opiate addiction.

Maryann Morris, executive director of The Collaborative, and who organizes the Bennington County Prescription Drug Take Back program, said a number of things came out of the local meeting. One was the formation of a planning group that will meet in two weeks to set up a public forum near the end of September. The group also split into smaller sections focused on prevention, enforcement, treatment, and recovery to create an inventory about what Bennington County has in place to combat opiate addiction and what it still needs.

All of this stems from the Governor’s Community Forum on Opiate Addiction which was held in Montpelier June 16. It called together delegations from all parts of the state and encouraged them to begin talking locally about how to address what has been characterized as a "opiate epidemic," a nationwide problem that’s also a problem in Vermont.

Morris said the group hopes to have an action plan ready for the public forum, something that can be distributed to people and be useful. Right now it looks like it will include a list of treatment options that are available, and what to do if a person sees something suspicious or a person who needs help.

The group is trying to keep its goals action-oriented, making sure to list things that can be done now for no cost. Morris said one example so far has been the Bennington Police giving information on drug treatment options to those they encounter who may have a problem.

A need that was identified, she said, is transportation. People need to be able to get to places where drug treatment is offered, which can be difficult. Morris said improving transportation would both help people who are addicted and be good for the community as a whole.

Morris said it was agreed that meetings of this kind should continue after the community forum is held.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.