Recovery coaches distributing "harm reduction" kits in Bennington, September 2020

Julea Larsen and Tom Haley, recovery coaches at the Turning Point Center of Bennington, hand out “harm reduction” kits to some apartments on Pleasant Street in Bennington in September, 2020. The kits include naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdose.

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BENNINGTON — Two Bennington County residents were among 10 Vermonters who died of accidental opioid overdoses in February, according to the state’s latest data on opioid fatalities.

This brings the statewide overdose death toll for the first two months of the year to 23, up by two from the same period last year, according to a Department of Health report.

In Bennington County, the total fatalities for the period is four — the highest number recorded in a county and a figure also seen in Chittenden and Windsor counties.

The report, released in May, revised Bennington County’s January figure from one to two. The monthly figures can change throughout the year as pending death certificates are finalized.

The Turning Point Center of Bennington, which supports people in recovery from substance misuse, said it continues to see a significant number of fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the county.

The number of incidents this year has been comparable to last year, which was a “really bad” and “really difficult year” due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Turning Point recovery coach Julea Larsen.

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Last year, the state logged 157 Vermonter deaths from accidental opioid overdose or one with an undetermined intent — the most since at least 2010.

Social isolation is one of the worst situations for people in recovery, said Larsen, who is looking forward to the lifting of the state’s remaining pandemic-related restrictions.

This would allow the local Turning Point, for one, to expand its office hours and resume in-person support group meetings.

Tom Hailey, the center director, said people in recovery who are left to their own devices have a high risk of relapsing.

An important detail in the state’s latest opioid fatality report is that all 23 deaths reported involved fentanyl — a growing driver of accidental overdose deaths in Vermont. In last year’s 157 overdose deaths, fentanyl was seen in nearly 90 percent of the cases, the biggest proportion that the state had recorded in the past two decades.

Contact Tiffany Tan at or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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