Partisan Attacks Weaken Public Policy & Undermine the Bipartisan Focus & Progress on the Opioid Epidemic
In response to the Democratic Party Leaders’ statements that sadly turn our work on the opioid epidemic into a partisan issue, Campaign Manager Brittney Wilson released the following statement:
“Everyone who cares about the opioid epidemic has an obligation to point out that, until today, combating the epidemic had been a truly collaborative non-partisan issue.
“In a deeply hypocritical statement, the Vermont Democratic Party failed to mention that pharmaceutical manufacturers have contributed thousands of dollars to the Vermont Democrats, and millions of dollars at the national level.
“The fact remains that pharmaceutical manufacturers make a wide range of life-saving medicine; have accepted the role that they and prescribers played in this issue; and are actively supporting efforts to reverse it. If the Vermont Democratic Party objects, they should call on 100% of their elected officials, candidates, committees and PACs to return all of the contributions they have received from pharmaceutical manufacturers in this, and all previous, cycles.
“Putting campaign finances aside, the real issue is whether or not we’re going to let the Vermont Democratic Party pull the most challenging health crisis we face — and the many years of non-partisan collaboration — into the political gutter.
“The Democratic Party’s statement should not be dismissed as just political theatre, election year politics, or DC-style politics — or any other typical excuse. This is very serious and it should be called out for what it is: Extremely corrosive.
“It’s corrosive to the consensus required to do the difficult work of reversing the greatest public health epidemic of our time.
“It’s corrosive to the relationships necessary to solve other very complex challenges, like our eroding demographics, our national and global economic competitiveness and the economic security of every family in all 251 communities of our state.
“It’s corrosive to the integrity of the entire policymaking process itself.
“Across multiple Administrations and Legislatures, Vermont’s non-partisan approach has delivered substantial progress. As a result, Vermont’s response to the opioid epidemic is regarded as the most effective in the country. Governor Scott and the Secretary of Human Services were invited to testify earlier this year in front of a bipartisan congressional committee. And officials from other states have visited Vermont to learn how we’re making so much more progress than other states.
“Yes, there’s A LOT more to do to reverse the impacts of this crisis — and the ability of future Administrations and Legislatures to build on Vermont’s success is now being undermined by a party that hopes to score a few quick, and dirty, political points. We must not shrug this off as “routine party politics” because today, the severity of our largest public health crisis was used in a hypocritical attack in an attempt to bring people down.
“Vermont has a history of being the moral compass of our country. It’s time to lead the nation, again. We all know that this is a time in our Nation’s history where doing what’s right — putting principle ahead of politics — is increasingly important. This is not a partisan issue — it’s a human issue. It’s about families and communities. And we must do better.”
IMPORTANT BACKGROUND: 19 MONTHS OF RESULTS & PROGRESS
The fact is the unified commitment and non-partisan approach to this challenge has generated real, measurable results. Real leaders know that protecting this non-partisan, unified, and effective, collaboration should always be a higher priority than election year gimmicks.
Vermont is a leader in addressing this crisis. For 15 years collaboration and commitment have been the cornerstones of a unified effort that is, in fact, turning the tide. And Governor Scott, and the Legislature, have worked hard to build on this history, and significantly accelerate the results. For example, in just 19 months the Scott Administration, working with the Legislature, has achieved the following:
Expanding Access to Treatment
Worked with partners and providers to expedite opening of the St Albans Hub (including opening of a temporary hub at Northwest Medical Center). These efforts supported the hard work of providers and treatment professionals across the state, helping bring the Chittenden County treatment wait list to zero, which created the capacity statewide to get people into treatment quickly.
Secured an amendment to Vermont’s Global Commitment to Health 1115 Demonstration waiver, allowing Medicaid to pay for inpatient residential treatment for addiction.
Expanded Medication Assisted Treatment to a 120-day continuation at all Department of Corrections sites.
- After Maple Leaf Treatment Center in Underhill had to close its doors in February 2018, the Agency of Human Services partnered with Valley Vista and the Recovery House Network in Rutland to ensure there would not be a gap in inpatient treatment capacity.
Improving Statewide Coordination
Created, by Executive Order, the Opioid Coordination Council (OCC), with a mission to strengthen and expand Vermont’s response to the opioid crisis through prevention, treatment, recovery and enforcement, while improving coordination across all state and local entities with a role in addressing the crisis.
Created the new position of Director of Drug Prevention Policy to align the delivery of services within state government, oversee the OCC and work with communities across Vermont to implement strategies.
- Repurposed the Vermont Agency of Education’s Tobacco Use Prevention Coordinator position into a Substance Use Prevention Coordinator, allowing the State to address a wider range of prevention efforts in our schools.
Expanding Substance Use Disorder Treatment Workforce
Coordinated a statewide substance use disorder workforce summit in April 2017, hosting more than 150 health, education and policy stakeholders to collaborate on solutions to substance abuse disorders, with a focus on increasing professionals in the treatment and recovery fields.
- Working with the Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation (OPR), providers and industry stakeholders, reformed administrative rules governing licensed treatment professionals. These reforms increased the efficiency of the licensing process, allowing for expansion of this sector of the workforce.
Employment & Recovery
- Launched a new initiative to have Vermont Department of Labor employment counselors make regular visits to all of Vermont’s recovery centers, providing services and guidance to help those in recovery find and keep jobs.
- Proposed and passed investment of $500,000 for a child protection initiative within DCF, which supports parent-child contact and will help reduce the backlog of court cases involving children affected by the opioid epidemic.
- Proposed and passed increased investment in the guardian ad litem program, which supports children in the court system.
The Vermont Drug Task Force, in partnership with federal and local law enforcement, has concluded multiple significant drug trafficking investigations involving illegal opioids and other narcotics, resulting in the arrest of over 200 individuals for narcotics violations. These investigations targeted Vermonters responsible for distributing narcotics, including heroin, and facilitating the distribution of illegal drugs by out-of-state suppliers.
The Department of Public Safety has secured a $1.3 million Department of Justice Grant to combat heroin trafficking in Vermont.
In partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement, promote and participate in “Drug Take Back” days, which aim to provide a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, including unused opioids. In the last 18 months, nearly nine tons of unused prescriptions, including opioids, have been safely disposed of by Vermonters.
Establishing prescription drug disposal sites at all ten Vermont State Police Barracks.
This positive progress — and the non-partisan approach driving it forward — is the real story here. Governor Scott remains committed to reaching across the aisle and breaking down barriers to make progress. Everyone running for office should share this commitment.
We will only eradicate this problem by putting petty politics aside and working together.