Vermont Reviews Their Substance Abuse Treatment Laws

Recently, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has announced publicly that education qualifications have been simplified for becoming an addiction counselor. The reason for this is the growing epidemic and the need for more recovery coaches. The addition of these new coaches will take the pressure off professionals so that they can do their jobs more thoroughly.

"Getting the opioid crisis right is a matter of life and death. It's life and death," said Kurt White, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor with the Brattleboro Retreat, a mental health and addictions treatment center in Brattleboro. "And this administrative rule helps us to do that because it helps us to increase access to treatment for those who need it."

According to Scott there are currently 693 total substance abuse counselors across the state, while there is a need for at least 100 to 200 more.

Officials have pointed out that the addition of ‘apprentice counselors’ the professionals would be able to focus on the quality of their care versus quantity.

In April, a substance abuse summit was held in Vermont so that officials could take a closer lookout the current laws surrounding the topic. Gov. Phil Scott teamed up with his Opioid Coordination Council to make this possible.

After drawing awareness to their state’s current laws on substance abuse, they made progress. In Chittenden County, where treatment is in highest demand, they have wiped out the waiting list. Adding more treatment space is the answer to this issue.

"We believe the crisis is growing. I don't believe that we've identified all those who ... need treatment, are seeking treatment, so we believe that opening the door, having this available to more Vermonters, is the answer," he said Monday.

Jena Trombley, of the Clara Martin Center has pointed out that when an addict surrenders to treatment, sitting on a waiting list does not help this situation. Every addiction case is urgent and needs to be handled in a timely manner, before the patient changes their mind.

"If we don't have a credentialed workforce our ability to effectively respond to clients' needs is compromised," she said. "When that happens prospective clients often return to using substances and may not seek help again for a long time. These changes are going to help that significantly."

Unfortunately, Maple Leaf Treatment Center in Underhill closed its doors in February due to their financial issues as well as lack of professional treatment counselors.

"It wouldn't fix everything that Maple Leaf was facing," Gobeille said. "But it was certainly part of the reason of the reason why they closed."

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