Vt. Gets Treatment Money

Funds Will Combat Drug, Alcohol Abuse

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, including at a center serving the Bradford area.

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 the 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.

Other providers scheduled to start this year include The Health Center in Plainfield, Vt., 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.

Little Rivers Health Care, which has clinics in Bradford, Wells River and East Corinth — along with Community Health Services of Lamoile Valley and University of Vermont Student Health Center — are the providers expected to “start in later years,” according to the Shumlin administration.

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.