news On his ‘first day’, Senator Peter Welch talks about opioid crisis in Rutland

U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vermont, left) and U.S. Health and Human Services hear Rutland Police Chief Brian Kilcullen speak in the foreground during a roundtable discussion on the opioid crisis at the Rutland Regional Medical Center. Commissioner Xavier Becerra (right) Monday, January 9, Rutland. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

On what he called his “first day” as a U.S. Senator, Peter Welch (D-Vt.) returned to Vermont to discuss the opioid epidemic.

“This has been an area of ​​tremendous bipartisan cooperation in Congress,” Welch said at an event at the Rutland Regional Medical Center, citing Washington’s support for direct addiction treatment work by clinicians on the ground. commended for funding the “My job is relatively easy: allocate funds and put those resources back into the community.”

Monday’s roundtable was attended by Rutland Hospital staff and Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen, along with Xavier Becerra, the Biden administration’s secretary of health and human services. And while they all spoke positively about current efforts to combat the opioid crisis, the message was clear.

“I have work to do,” Becerra summed up the afternoon, adding, “We’ve got more money than ever before, but it’s still not enough.”

Vermont is on pace for another year of record opioid overdose deaths.of Latest state data shows that 168 Vermonters had fatal overdoses from January to September.

Dr. Allison Davis, medical director of the emergency department at Rutland Regional Medical Center, speaks at a roundtable on the Rutland opioid crisis Monday, January 9, 2023. Photo credit: Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Welch, who was sworn in in Washington last week, heard Alison Davis, medical director of the emergency department at Rutland Hospital, describe the dire conditions inside the emergency room. More and more people are overdosing on fentanyl, and with the strength of the drug supply, patients need to resurrect more Narcan than ever before.

“Unfortunately, we are also treating a two-year-old who overdosed on his parents’ drugs and his parents’ heroin.” and we are seeing more children coming from school to the emergency department with behavioral problems.”

Unlike opioids, xylazine (an animal tranquilizer increasingly found in Vermont’s opioid supply) does not respond to overdose control drug Narcan. Xylazine, which mixes with fentanyl to form the so-called ‘tranq dope’, “has become ubiquitous here in Rutland,” Davis said.

According to Davis, stronger drug combinations cause more intense withdrawal symptoms.

Said Ahmed, medical director of the West Ridge Center, a medically assisted treatment facility that is part of Rutland Hospital, said patients could use telehealth to take methadone at home and talk to clinicians. Praised the “Wheels and Waves” program that allows

Dr. Saeed Ahmed, Medical Director of the West Ridge Center at the Rutland Regional Medical Center, speaking at a roundtable on the Rutland opioid crisis Monday, January 9, 2023. Photo credit: Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The program, which Welch helped fund as a member of Congress, continued to treat 95% of patients after a year, compared to 50% at other clinics, according to Ahmed.

Ambulatory methadone treatment options are needed in “rural areas where it is very difficult to reach people,” Ahmed said. The mobile clinic will not require patients to travel more than 30 minutes for treatment and will allow people whose driver’s licenses have been suspended or revoked to receive treatment, he said.

Ahmed said mobile clinics could also help incarcerated individuals. They may avoid seeking medical help because of the stigma of having to travel to appointments in handcuffs with law enforcement. , the transition to a new lifestyle is even more difficult for Vermonters with substance use disorders.

Rutland continues to suffer from the opioid epidemic. Statistics provided by the Rutland City Police show a 46% increase from 2021 to 2022, reaching 117 cases in 2022. There were 17 overdoses in December alone, more than any other month in the last year.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, joined by U.S. Senator Peter Welch, D-Vermont, during a roundtable discussion on the opioid crisis held at Rutland Regional Medical Center, Rutland, Monday, January 9, 2023. Photo credit: Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Rutland City Police Chief Kilcullen said, “The numbers are not encouraging. That trend has reversed.

“It’s been 10 years since Project VISION was created, and I think Covid has had a negative impact on the progress we made early on,” said Kilcullen. He advocated additional funding for an inpatient care program. Vermont is currently funding his two-week program, while neighboring states are funding his 30-day program and are reporting more success.

Non-traditional police services appear to be one avenue for positive change, Kilcullen noted.

Earlier this year, Matt Prouty, former commander of the Rutland Police Department and head of Project VISION, became the city’s first community resource specialist. In this role, he answers non-criminal calls and helps connect residents with resources.

“We do not intend to provide police response for issues that do not require police response,” Kilcullen said. “It’s hard to get an officer. It’s easier to get an unsworn officer.”

Just last week, Prouty announced that he would once again lead Project VISION and return to his role as a police commander. But Kilcullen said his community resources have been successful in his specialist role, with the city funding his second position in the next fiscal year and by July he will have two employees. We would like to place a specialist.

Thanking “those on the front lines” for their dedication to fighting the crisis, Welch vowed to return to Washington with the words of the room in mind.

“We’re going to give these ideas back to you,” he said. “I have to keep doing this good work.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra (right) joins Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, at a roundtable discussion on the opioid crisis held at Rutland Regional Medical Center, Rutland, Monday, January 9, 2023. center).Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

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