MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — In a story April 5 about Vermont's heroin problem, The Associated Press, relying on information provided by the Vermont Health Department, reported erroneously on a statistic about the drug's use. The department revised a report to say the number of people receiving treatment in state addiction programs increased from 2011 to 2012 by 35 percent, not that heroin use rose 35 percent.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Vermont among states seeing surge in heroin use
Vermont among states reporting growing problems with heroin use; deaths nearly doubled in 2013
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Some states, including Vermont, are reporting a rise in heroin use as many addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative.
Gov. Peter Shumlin said in his State of the State speech this year that addiction to heroin and other opiates "threatens the safety that has always blessed our state." He described the abuse as a "crisis bubbling just beneath the surface." The number of heroin overdose deaths nearly doubled last year over 2012. The number of people seeking treatment for opiate abuse in Vermont has multiplied almost eight-fold since 2000, the governor said. Federal indictments of heroin dealers in 2013 were up five times over 2010.
Information from Vermont state agencies and the Justice Center of the Council on State Governments shows the number of people receiving treatment in the state's heroin-addiction treatment programs increased by 35 percent from 2011 to 2012. The state recorded nine heroin deaths that year; the number of heroin deaths rose to 21 in 2013; the number of people treated for heroin or other opiates rose from 399 in 2000 to 3,479 in 2012, a per capita rate now second in the nation; more than $2 million in heroin and opiates are trafficked into Vermont each week; almost 80 percent of Vermont's prison population is addicted or incarcerated on addiction-related offenses, such as theft or burglary.
The governor has called on the Vermont Legislature to shift leadership in the fight against heroin from law enforcement to the public health community. Lawmakers are poised to adopt sweeping standards for a statewide diversion program to get some offenders into drug treatment and out of the judicial system.
A few Vermont communities already divert many people accused of drug-related crimes and these communities report astounding success, with at least 80 percent of participants conviction-free after a year. In Chittenden County, home of Burlington, the state's largest city, addicts accused of such crimes as theft, drug possession or writing bad checks are evaluated for the diversion program before they are charged. Unlike in typical diversion programs, participants can be eligible even if they have past convictions. The county state's attorney, T.J. Donovan, says the program works because it integrates public health and public safety.