On November 15, 2023

Vt. needs meaningful treatment of substance use

 

Dear Editor,

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 in the creation of appropriate treatment facilities. 

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 Mr. Prouty, the Project Vision commander 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 substance use disorder. If it was simple to treat, we would not be where we are today.  Substance use disorder is a true medical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

In contrast to the wonderful ideology of the Project Vision Coalition, state Rep. Will Notte, D-Rutland City, believes he should squander his limited legislative year working on a bill to make felons of the people who suffer with the disease substance use disorder, so they can be locked up. 

According to him, this bill would add together multiple misdemeanors created in close succession to be turned into a felony charge to decrease court backlogs and increase punishment. Multiple misdemeanors in close succession is obviously a symptom of substance use disorder! If only turning substance use disorder 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 substance use disorder. 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 a year. If lawmakers made a commitment upfront to create the much-needed substance use disorder 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 substance use disorder. Being unhoused, unfed, uneducated, abused and from a home with substance abuse creates a brain in adolescence and young adults that becomes disordered.

We know the problem. What counts is how we respond.

Leslie Thorsen,

Chester

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