Vermont gets $9.5M to better track opioid abuse statewide

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Health Department is going to receive a three-year, $9.5 million grant do more to track and respond to opioid overdoses as part of an effort to be sure solutions to the opioid crisis reach all of the state's smallest towns and villages.

The grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also be used to identify overdose risks and strengthen outreach efforts.

"The risks posed by opioids knows no bounds," U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said in a release announcing the grant.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine calls the opioid crisis "the most complex public health challenge of our time."

The grant will increase the state's ability to track and respond to overdoses, including fatal overdoses, strengthen Vermont's Prescription Drug Monitoring System, and provide overdose prevention trainings around the state to better identify overdose risks and strengthen outreach efforts.

The money will also enable the Health Department to review the 2018 drug-related fatalities and see where those who died had previous interactions with state systems. There were 110 opioid-related deaths last year, up from 108 deaths in 2017.

Collecting and sharing information on overdose cases in a timely manner can also result in public warnings where one community may be experiencing a highly lethal strain of fentanyl or heroin.

"We know we cannot rid our communities of these deadly drugs, but we know that sounding the alarm early can often save lives," Leahy said.

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