Burlington Officials Release Initiatives To Combat Opioid Crisis

Feb 16, 2017

Burlington, Vermont Mayor Miro Weinberger announced a series of initiatives Thursday aimed at addressing the opioid crisis in the city.

Mayor Weinberger was joined by the Chittenden County State’s Attorney, the city police chief, the Vermont Health Commissioner and the chief medical officer of the UVM Medical Center as he outlined 11 initiatives expanding the Community Stat effort.  That program was created in November to coordinate data gathering and analysis among a number of sectors to reduce the impact of opioid addiction in Burlington.  “The purpose of developing these opioid principles is severalfold.  It is to explain our approach to the public and to our partners.  It is to encourage community debate and engagement with these efforts.  And it is to guide city employees and officials who are working on the opioid challenge.”

According to a report released by the Vermont Health Department, the number of opioid-related accidental fatal overdoses continued to rise between 2010 and 2015. Burlington Police Chief Brandon delPozo says it is sobering that despite best efforts, overdose rates in Vermont have increased 38 percent.  “Not a week goes by  basically that we don’t deploy Narcan.  But then also because of Fentanyl in heavier doses we’re requiring more doses of Narcan in the field to reverse patients than before.  I was visiting the Sara Holbrook day care and there is no one in this free social-service based day care, these are all little children it’s pre-school, that are not dealing with a parent who’s has an opioid addiction.  There are kids being taken care of by their aunts, single parent, parent is incarcerated being taken care of by grandparents. So literally if the number of deaths doesn’t grip you then the number of children who are  growing up in fractured households should.”

One of the initiatives to address the crisis in Burlington aims to more fully embrace the medical community and its prescribing practices.  Dr. Stephen Leffler is Chief Medical Officer at the University of Vermont Medical Center.  “We have done a lot of work internally to make sure that we’re giving people safe and reasonable doses of medication for both acute injuries, surgery, chronic pain issues.  We’ve worked with, through legislation, with the Department of Health on new legislation coming out this summer to make sure that there’s a balanced perspective to how much people get.  But we are committed to driving down the amount of opiates that we are prescribing through a number of techniques such as multi-modal pain management and so on. So the first major area of focus is safe and appropriate prescribing, getting less opiates to our patients and out into the communities. Second and equally as important we’re completely committed to getting people who have addiction issues into treatments.”

The initiatives are considered draft principles.  The week after Town Meeting Day on March 16, Burlington’s mayor and police chief will hold a town hall meeting to gather public feedback. The revised initiatives will then be presented to the City Council for formal approval.