Vt House advances anti-narcotics billBy Kirk Carapezza
Vermont Public Radio | March 22,2013MONTPELIER — After weeks of studying Vermont’s prescription drug problem, House lawmakers Thursday advanced a sweeping bill that would address opiate addiction and abuse.
Rep. Bill Lippert, a Democrat from Hinesburg who is the lead sponsor of the bill, said that even before this legislative session began, he repeatedly heard from law enforcement officials who urged the Legislature to strengthen the state’s response to a prescription drug epidemic.
“We continue to have issues with overdoses,” he said. “We continue to have a need to address recovery because, as law enforcement said in our committee and elsewhere, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Lippert made sure the issue got attention this year.
Thursday on the House floor, he outlined how the new legislation would address that problem. It would provide wider access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring system and hold property owners accountable if they knowingly rent to drug dealers. It would also attempt to undercut the financing of the drug trade and increase treatment options.
Public health and law enforcement officials are championing the measure.
They say it would save lives.
“It’s clear that we have a challenging problem with opiate addiction and substance abuse in Vermont,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, whose office estimates that Vermont sees about 52 deaths every year by unintentional overdoses.
Chen said the state’s prescription drug monitoring system is only effective if physicians use it.
“This bill is really going to enhance its effectiveness and efficiency and essentially require physicians to use it at times when we all agree they should be looking to take better care of their patients,” he said.
Last year, a similar bill got bottled up in committee largely because lawmakers couldn’t agree whether to give police access to the state’s drug records.
This version would limit police access, but some lawmakers, including Arlington Rep. Cynthia Browning, want to expand it.
“I understand all the issues of privacy of patients,” Browning said. “I just think it’s important to note that improved access for law enforcement is not in this bill. That is one tool that is not being provided in this bill.”
Since opiate addiction in Vermont has dramatically spiked in recent years, lawmakers agree that the state needs to take a more comprehensive approach, and they say this bill is a good start.
The House also advanced a companion bill that would limit criminal liability for a person who calls emergency officials when someone is potentially having an opiate overdose.MORE IN Vermont News
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: V-2 No. 13, launched this day in 1946 from White Sands, New Mexico, takes first photographs of Earth from the edge of the planet's outer atmosphere; 1947: Walt Disney testifies before HUAC, names employees he says are communists.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Vermont's brand discussed at Killington, state's attorney candidates Marc Brierre and Rose Kennedy profiled, Curtis reports about Rutland police chief's new job, and four arrested, charged for heroin, crack sales.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1935, New York gangster, bootlegger, ruthless murderer Dutch Schultz, born Arthur Flegenheimer to Jewish-German immigrant parents, and three associates gunned down, killed, at the Palace Chophouse in Newark, N.J.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: Acclaimed illusionist & escape artist Harry Houdini, performing in Montreal in 1926, is sucker-punched by a McGill University student. Houdini doesn't know he has peritonitis - the punches are possible factor in his Oct. 31 death.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Rutland Police Chief James Baker to resign from the force at the end of the year to take a job in Washington, D.C., jury remains out in teacher killing murder trial, Rec Dept. releases report on what's wrong with White's Pool.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: Well diggers in Cardiff, New York, find what is thought to be the petrified body of a 10-foot-tall man, perfectly preserved after thousands of years, which becomes a popular roadside attraction until proven to be a fake.