By Curt Peterson
Rutland Mayor David Allaire says Rutland has reduced drug-related crime in the last decade, and credits a “hub and spoke” strategy with the success.
“Hubs” are outpatient treatment centers to which drug crime offenders are referred, Allaire said. Rutland Regional Medical Center’s West Ridge Center is one of several area hubs. Financial support for the centers comes largely from the state. A 30 day course of treatment costs $14,000 to $27,000, Allaire said. Detoxification runs $600 to $1,000 per day.
“The hubs wean offenders from drug dependency,” the mayor told the Mountain Times. “The goal is to get them back into the mainstream of society with jobs, homes and hope.”
In the past, detoxed patients were released back into their original environment with little support to keep them on track. The “spokes” are physicians or medical clinics that are near addicts’ residences and provide ongoing positive treatment, either medication- or faith-based.
Allaire feels both treatment theories, medication assisted or abstinence practices, are valuable, depending on the individual case.
“Twenty years ago, drug addiction was considered a character flaw rather than a disease,” Allaire said. “Faith-based organizations have come to realize there is a cure, through an abstinence approach or via medication, or a combination.”
Allaire estimates more than 400 Rutland addicts are being treated with methadone, and there is no waiting list.
Data concur— in 2009 Rutland logged 23 robberies, referred to as “cash-ready crimes” where goods stolen are easily converted to cash for drugs, and in 2015 there were three. Rutland’s 2009 robbery rate was 137.8 per 100,000 residents, and by 2014 it had dropped to 19, according to city-data.com.
Allaire said, “Over 50 percent of treatment seekers started taking opioids prescribed for pain. There was a lot of irresponsible prescribing. Drug companies and doctors now realize a change is necessary.”
Hard drugs are still introduced via a direct route.
Interstate highways that connect Montreal, Boston, New York and Philadelphia, sources of much of the addictive contraband, provide easy delivery. A bag of heroin that cost $5 in New York can sell for $30 in Vermont, Business Insider magazine wrote in October 2013.
Economics is also a factor. Challenges of homelessness, unemployment, underemployment and relative poverty exacerbate people’s problems, sometimes leading to drugs.
Project Vision Rutland, a civic group in which Mayor Allaire is active, focuses on crime and safety, substance abuse, and community, neighborhood and housing issues.
Rutland’s population is dropping—16,495 in 2010 to 14,942 in 2014 – but other statistics seem encouraging. Unemployment, almost 10 percent in 2009, and has dropped to 5.2 percent. Median household income, $30,478 in 2000, was $42,666 in 2016.
“There’s a false impression that we don’t have enough jobs,” Allaire said. “There isn’t a shortage of jobs, but there is a shortage of good-paying jobs. Our tourism and service jobs market are strong, but we lost a lot of manufacturing jobs and that loss spiked right after the recession started. I think that may be a trend across the country.”
And Rutland’s workforce is educated— 89.7 percent have a high school degree or better, and 28.8 percent hold at least a bachelor’s degree, again according to city-data.com.
Teen Challenge Vermont in St. Johnsbury operates a Christian treatment center combined with vocational training. The 15-month program, which accommodates 30 – 50 patients, costs $3,000 per month, depending on the resident’s resources. There is a minimum $750 co-pay due from the patient. Training and treatment includes temporary employment.
“Teen Challenge has a 65 percent success rate,” Allaire said.
Allaire said the Rutland Police Department, under Chief Brian Kilcullen, has implemented training and new methods for dealing face-to-face with addicts and getting them placed appropriately, and enthusiastically supports the city’s improved access to treatment.