Turning Point Leaders: Better access to treatment, youth programs

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BENNINGTON — Faster access to substance abuse treatment, new programs for youth and a greater outreach in small towns are among what's needed to address the region's substance abuse issue.

Leaders with the Turning Point Center of Bennington County outlined those needs on Monday morning at a legislative breakfast attended by several county lawmakers.

A person with an opioid addiction could wait two weeks to be admitted into a treatment facility, according to Kenneth Sigsbury, director for the center.

"If someone is physically addicted and wants to go to treatment, they have to go today," Sigsbury told legislators at the center's Main Street office. "They can't go to tomorrow or in two days. The pain and suffering they'll go through just by abstaining will drive them right back to drugs."

"This epidemic is destroying a generation," Sigsbury said at one point in the discussion..

Tom Haley, TPC Bennington board president, said there's a need to reach people who live in smaller towns on the county outskirts.

"If they can't get to us, how do we get to them," Haley asked.

In attendance on Monday were: Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal, Rep. Tim Corcoran, D-Bennington, Rep. Alice Miller, D-Shaftsbury, Rep. Kiah Morris, D-Bennington, Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington , and Senators Brian Campion and Dick Sears, D-Bennington.

The local Turning Point is one of 11 in the state under the Recovery Center Network and acts as a resource hub for those seeking recovery from addiction. The center's office at 465 Main St. also hosts 12-step meetings. The center doesn't offer medically assisted treatment for people with substance abuse disorder, but does direct people to those facilities.

Sigsbury took over as director after the retirement of Joan Walsh in January. He outlined new partnerships with local organizations, like Southwestern Vermont Health Care and United Counseling Service, and The Collaborative in Manchester.

Answering a question from Morrissey about top priorities on the center's "wish list," Sigsbury said immediate treatment when someone wants it. The number of available beds fluctuates. And he noted the Maple Leaf Treatment Center in Underhill has closed. That 41-bed inpatient drug rehabilitation program, which represented 30 percent of inpatient beds in the state, closed abruptly in February.

He said the center would benefit from a larger space to house a growing number of programs. He noted the county is not served by Al-Anon/Alateen programs. The center is trying to spread its message to younger people. In explaining the need. Singsbury said 37 percent of people with an opiate addiction are under the age of 25.

"Young people don't want to come into a place with the demographic is above 40," he said.

To that end, the center has brought on Thomas Bruso as the new part-time youth coordinator, Sigsbury said.

Sigsbury told legislators that the state Department of Health has approved funding for a new recovery phone line pilot program. Sigsbury said he hopes Bennington will be chosen as one of the three centers in the state to take part in the pilot program and asked legislators to do what they can to advocate for the center.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.


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