Vermont Opioids Epidemic

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Declining economic opportunity is one contributor to increased drug use, including in Vermont youth. In Vermont, opioid abuse has increased steadily, to some of the highest rates in America. This is a vicious cycle. Work productivity is lost, jobs are left unfilled, children lose parents to state care (at high cost, both monetarily and emotionally), parents are emotionally and financially drained. Prison inmates are being helped with Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT), but this together with civilian MAT is costing Vermont taxpayers millions of dollars annually, and it is largely a one-way street: substance abusers are assisted onto MAT, but there is not a comprehensive effort to help them become drug-free.

Like schools, pensions, and other of Vermont’s most serious problems, this problem will only worsen if not reversed. David Zuckerman and the progressives call for increased public investment in MAT, housing, and job creation for substance abusers. John Klar argues that they have the cycle in reverse — if Vermont’s government ceased destroying the Vermont economy, fewer people would turn to drugs; fewer families would be torn apart. Housing costs are high in Vermont because of excessive real estate taxes, overly burdensome regulations for landlords and laws which favor tenants, and absurd overregulation which makes even so-called “affordable housing” extremely costly. Yet, the progressive voices in Vermont seek to extract yet more tax dollars (increasing property taxes) to construct more unaffordable public housing for ex-convicts and substance abusers.

John Klar is a Vermont-certified Recovery Coach and former Special Public Defender, and has thus worked with substance abusers for decades. He argues for compassionate treatment toward those suffering from addiction, but asserts that prevention requires improved economic opportunity, not just government-subsidized housing and employment. Vermont simply lacks the economic wealth to become the nanny state for a one-way process of more and more people becoming dependent on MAT. This situation is worsening, and unsustainable.

John proposes to provide more volunteer and professional support for those in recovery, specifically in counseling services for those people who wish to free themselves of dependency on MAT. Many people are offered free drugs, but insufficient support to cease taking them. The cost savings of this policy would be largely self-funding of expanded counseling services. Additionally, John seeks to expand support services for parents of substance abusers, and for pregnant women on MAT, to cover the entire state.

Reducing taxes and regulations will help Vermonters thrive, reduce substance abuse, and reverse the downward economic spiral that the state bureaucracy is compounding with well-intentioned but misguided expansion. Once again, the current pattern is unsustainable and must be reversed.