The deadly overdoses of opioids in Chittenden County have declined in 2018 to reach their lowest level in at least six years, local and state officials said Thursday. The number of deaths has decreased by 50%, from 35 in 2017 to 17 last year.
Data recently released by the Vermont Department of Health provides "measurable evidence that we are progressing as a community," said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. About two dozen health officials, law enforcement officials, politicians and leaders of non-profit organizations touted the progress made at a press conference at Queen City.
At the same time, the total number of people who died from an opioid overdose in Vermont continued to rise. The state recorded 110 such deaths in 2018, up from 108 the year before. The total sets a new record of opioid-related deaths in Vermont.
Deaths related to fentanyl also increased significantly. According to the data, the powerful synthetic opioid was involved in three quarters of all opioid deaths last year, three times more than in 2015. Heroin has also been implicated in 55% of deaths, often in association with fentanyl. More than 90% of deaths were accidental, the rest indeterminate.
Of the 110 deaths, one Vermont member died, but not the six non-Vermont dead. in l & # 39; state. Three suicides involving opioids have also been left out, according to the Ministry of Health.
Attorney Sarah George, Chittenden County State Attorney, said she "felt unbelievably defeated" when she saw the 2018 numbers at the time. Scale of the state. The loss of life is "totally unacceptable".
But much of Thursday's protest focused on the positive. Weinberger praised the work in progress as "one of the most comprehensive and robust responses and interventions of all local communities across America".
He highlighted the success of this collective effort: the University of Vermont Medical Center had reduced its opioid prescriptions; Local law enforcement authorities no longer appeal or prosecute for possession of buprenorphine; drug-assisted treatment has become readily available.
Howard Center Executive Director Bob Bick detailed his organization's progress in eliminating waiting lists and distributing more than 20,000 doses of naloxone, an overdose medicine, over the last five years. The Howard Center now regularly serves 1,000 customers, according to Bick.
At the same time, more than 8,000 people across the state are currently receiving drug-assisted treatment in state-supported facilities, the commissioner said. Vermont Health, Mark Levine, in a press release released Thursday.
"Information such as the ones we have today deserve to be discussed and appreciated," said Tom Dalton, executive director of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform.
Nevertheless, officials emphasized that the work was not finished.
Local leaders will "redouble" [their] Brandon del Pozo, Burlington Police Chief, said, "Let's focus on our North Star, which is the number of men and women who die," he said.