At a Vermont State House press conference Thursday, May 6, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that Vermont will receive $12 million in Covid relief funds that will help communities strengthen their responses to substance use disorders and address new challenges brought on by the pandemic. Leahy was joined by Governor Phil Scott, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, and Vermont’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, for the announcement.
“This funding could not come at a more critical time. The isolation and financial hardships brought on by Covid are challenging enough for anyone, but think for a moment about what this has meant for people in treatment and recovery for substance use disorder, particularly those living in our most rural communities,” Leahy said.
The funding includes a two-year, $6 million flexible block grant to the Vermont Health Dept. under the Covid Supplemental Appropriations bill passed last December, and a similar grant that will be coming from the American Rescue Plan Act that passed in March. The money will be administered through Vermont’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs to support prevention, treatment and recovery programs in communities around the state.
“Even throughout the last year, Vermont never lost sight of the issues facing Vermonters with substance use disorder,” said Governor Scott. “The pandemic presented particular barriers for those individuals, challenging us to continue to offer services and supports while they were isolated from their friends, families and communities. This block grant money will allow Vermont to continue our work and to expand our efforts in education, outreach, direct prevention, treatment, and in recovery services.”
“I know I speak for my fellow Vermonters when I express my deep gratitude for your work on substance use disorder treatment and prevention,” said Lt. Governor Molly Gray, Thursday. “This latest round of funding builds on the funding you secured … previously for communities to start life-saving treatment and prevention programs. You have put Vermonters at the forefront in addressing this crisis… Vermont lost 157 Vermonters last year to opioid-related causes. Substance use disorder touches all of our lives in some way at some time.
“My thoughts are with all of those brave Vermonters in recovery and maintaining treatment through the toughest of circumstances. We know that substance use disorder comes hand in hand with isolation. This pandemic has exposed and imposed numerous barriers to community-wide support systems vital to treatment and prevention,” Gray said.
Leahy was also joined by Eva Zaret, coordinator of the Central Vermont Prevention Coalition, and Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete, who detailed how the coalition’s earlier work in developing a community-wide response to substance use disorders helped address the unique challenges brought on by Covid.
Past funding Leahy has helped to secure:
- More than $18 million (now $4 million/year) since the State Opioid Response (SOR) grant was started in 2017. This funding supports prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.
- In 2019, Vermont received a $9.5 million grant from the CDC to improve the tracking and prevention of opioid-related overdoses.
- Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP): Since Leahy established this program in 2018, Vermont has received more than $10 million.
- Anti-Heroin Task Force Funding: Police have been awarded two grants totaling $2.7 million from a program that Leahy created to combat drug trafficking.
- Mentoring programs: Leahy helped secure funding that led to two $1.25 million awards to mentoring organizations to support youth affected by opioids.