Vermont Sign-On Letter in Support of OPC Legislation

Dear Members of the Vermont General Assembly:

Over the past decade the dramatic rise in fatal overdoses has become one of the most pressing crises facing our state. Directly or indirectly addiction and overdose have touched the lives of most Vermonters, impacting our families, or friends and our communities. We have worked to enact a number of important policies that can be beneficial, including making Naloxone widely accessible, but the stark reality is that these efforts have not stopped overdoses from occurring or reversed the rising curve of overdose deaths. We cannot continue to stand by and allow Vermonters to die without trying a proven life-saving intervention, which is why we urge you to pass legislation to authorize and fund Overdose Prevention Centers. 

The evidence is now clear and uncontested - after years of studying programs operating in Canada, in countries throughout the world, and now in New York - that Overdose Prevention Centers save lives. That’s not a surprising finding, since someone is far more likely to survive an overdose if someone with training and equipment is immediately available to intervene when an emergency situation arises, instead of after far more time has elapsed - or instead of nobody responding at all because the person was using alone or because others in the area fail to recognize the urgency of the situation. 

What we also know from peer-reviewed research is that such sites do not lead to increased drug use or crime in surrounding communities. Instead, they can help reduce drug use in public areas, inside and around businesses, and outside of churches. They reduce the amounts of discarded waste in our communities. Instead of leaving our neighbors with significant needs to be alone or in vulnerable situations, they bring people inside, providing greater access and connection to needed services, behavioral health supports, minor medical care, and basic needs such as laundry, computer access, and safe spaces that help reduce trauma and anxiety. 

All of us want to help our fellow Vermonters who need substance use disorder treatment to have easy access to high quality, evidence-based treatment, and we support efforts to further expand its availability. But Improving stability for those experiencing substance use disorder, which can most effectively occur at an overdose prevention center, is a vital step in connecting people with that treatment and other supportive services. Overdose Prevention Centers will not end the overdose crisis alone, but will make a difference in keeping people alive so that they can have the opportunity to embrace treatment and recovery services.

None of us want to encourage unprescribed drug use or unregulated drug sales. Any suggestion that the thoughtful work to establish overdose prevention centers would encourage drug use or “send the wrong signal” is wrong. Such suggestions have been proven untrue by the research and may be rooted in misunderstandings about how such centers operate. 

We all want healthy, safe and cohesive communities, and for those experiencing substance use disorder to have the best possible access to care and support. That’s why we urge you to enact legislation that will finally add Overdose Prevention Centers as another tool for addressing addiction and overdose in Vermont.  

Respectfully,

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PLEASE SIGN ON BY APRIL 15, 2024 

Thank you for your support! 
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