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Top stories of 2014: #5 — County ramps up services for opiate addicts

After Gov. Peter Shumlin made opiate addiction the focus of his State of the State address in January, Addison County and neighboring areas saw multiple large drug busts and drug-related arrests as well as expansions in services to people seeking recovery or assistance.
As 2014 opened, Porter Medical Center and the Counseling Service of Addison County were in discussions to collaborate on a clinic to provide Suboxone, a drug designed to help a growing number of Addison County addicts break their dependence on opiates.
At the same time, some authorities said they were alarmed at the increasing role prescription drugs are playing in sex crimes involving young victims.
In May, the Turning Point Center in Middlebury began offering free Narcan emergency kits to anyone seeking the product to assist a friend or loved one at risk of overdosing on opiates. The kits feature two doses of Naloxone dispensed through a nasal sprayer. Naloxone is used to treat respiratory depression caused by opioids, such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, codeine, and other prescription pain medications.
In July, Porter and the Counseling Service expanded the county’s only Suboxone program to help opiate addicts, a move that enabled Bristol Internal Medicine to deliver the much-needed service to 80-90 patients, up from 25. A total of four primary care physicians based at Bristol Internal Medicine are now able to prescribe Suboxone, which is not be kept on premises.
Sadly, the year also saw its share of drug arrests. On Feb. 5, police seized more than 400 bags of heroin and crack cocaine at a house on Carver Street in Brandon and made two arrests in the largest bust in the town’s recent history. Police estimated the street value of the heroin at $7,600 and the crack cocaine at $1,600.
On Aug. 29, Bristol police arrested four people and seized $4,000 in cash and thousands of bags of heroin. Police said two dealers from the New York City area enlisted the help of a Bristol couple to sell drugs in town. And in September, a Connecticut man suspected of dealing drugs in Bristol pleaded no contest to several drug charges in Addison Superior Court, criminal division, and was sentenced to 18 month to four years in prison. In Vergennes on Oct. 17, a lengthy investigation resulted in the arrest of two Vergennes residents and the seizure of heroin, marijuana, and materials consistent with narcotics use.
However, some drug addicts who were trying to turn their lives around came forward and told their stories publicly. The Independent featured stories on Kyle Pinkham, a popular Otter Valley graduate who descended into the hell of heroin addiction and was now on his fifth attempt to kick the drug, and Cheryl Barrows, who battled heroin addiction before turning to Suboxone to wean her off the illicit drug. Both stories offered hope.
Plus, a coalition called Brandon Cares was working hard to address the local drug problem. And in Vergennes on Sept. 3 local law enforcement, health care and social service officials gathered to plan new strategies on stemming the flow and use of heroin and other opiates into Addison County. The meeting was billed as a follow-up to the spring’s “summit on opiate addiction,” called by Gov. Shumlin and included brainstorming on ways to curb drug abuse and related crime.

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