It is time for our legislative body to make a full commitment to truly funding meaningful treatment to Vermont’s epidemic of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in the creation of appropriate treatment facilities. Where is our opioid settlement money? I concur our state is trying, but the idea of helping a “drug addict” still sticks in some legislators‘ craw.
I applaud the recent meeting at the Rutland Paramount Theatre with lawmakers, the governor and local law enforcement. I was buoyed by the spot-on comment made by Commander Matthew Prouty, the Project Vision* executive director, who stated “Gettting one person sober can have cumulative downstream effects that reduce crime and strengthen community ties.” Bravo! He gets it! Project Vision gets it! Most individuals are not proud of their struggle with SUD. If it was simple to treat we would not be where we are today. Substance Use Disorder is a true medical diagnosis in the DSM. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders).
In contrast to the wonderful ideology of the Project Vision Coalition, lawmaker Rep. William Notte believes he should squander his limited legislative year working on a bill to make people who suffer with the disease SUD felons, so they can be locked up. According to him, this bill would add together multiple misdeamors created in close succession to be turned into a felony charge to decrease court backlogs and increase punishment. Multiple misdeamors in close succession is obviously a symptom of SUD! If only turning SUD to felony convictions with resultant punishment could be such a simple solution!
In the Vermont Department of Corrections, there is zero to little treatment for SUD. How much time and effort is Rep. Notte going to expend for this failed idea that continues to play out as a failure across our state and country on a daily basis? How many more loved ones will we lose because we have inadequate treatment facilities?
Also, let’s think in budgetary terms. One incarcerated individual costs the state (and us) $100,000 dollars a year. If lawmakers made a commitment up front to create the much-needed SUD treatment in residence facilities, we wouldn’t have to continue to overburden the courts and the prisons because of a bona fide disease called Substance Use Disorder. SUD is no more a choice than breast cancer, kidney cancer, or prostate cancer.
Time to stop denying our serious cultural issues that contribute to SUD. Being unhoused, unfed, uneducated, abused and from a home with substance abuse, creates a brain in adolescence and young adults that becomes disordered. Substance Use Disorder.
We know the problem. What counts is how we respond.
— Leslie Thorsen RN
* Project Vision Website