Follow-up on opiates will involve more people, ideas


BENNINGTON -- Those who attended the Governor's Forum Community on Opiate Addiction in Montpelier Monday will meet next week and invite more locals who could not attend.

Since Gov. Peter Shumlin made opiate addiction the central focus of his state of the state speech at the beginning of this year, talk about heroin and addiction to other opiates has been going strong all across the state, especially in Bennington.

Monday's forum saw 12 delegations from all corners of Vermont gather at the State House to hear from the governor and top Department of Health officials before splitting off to attend panel discussions.

A meeting is scheduled at the Vermont Department of Health's community room in Bennington on June 26 for those who were with the delegation and those who were nominated by the health department to go, but not chosen by the Governor's Office, said Maryann Morris, executive director for The Collaborative, a group that works to keep youths substance free in the Northshire.

Morris was not with the delegation, but did help run a panel in which she talked about Bennington County's Prescription Drug Take Back program, which allows people to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs so the drugs do not end up being abused.

A number of speakers at Monday's event, including the governor, tied heroin addiction directly to the prevalence of legally prescribed painkillers.

Morris said the meeting next week will seek to identify what Bennington County already has going for it in terms of ways to combat opiate addiction and the resulting problems it leads to, and to identify where there are gaps.

Kiah Morris, of the Alliance for Community Transformations, was a delegate and said the panel discussions ranged on a wide variety of topics from law enforcement to what is being done in schools.

"I think it became very clear there isn't going to be one solution, and it's going to be tailored to each community," she said.

Those attending the panels heard about successful programs used in other parts of the state and the challenges they faced.

She said there is currently no funding for a person to coordinate these meetings locally full-time. Morris said she feels that someone will have to step into that role, but all those involved have full time jobs. It may be that the state is asked to help with that to keep the ball rolling, but it remains to be seen what comes out of these more in-depth, Bennington-oriented talks.

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


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