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: On this day in 1898, Nelson Miles leads American troops into Puerto Rico during Spanish-American War, Bob Dylan electrifies Newport Folk Festival in 1965, author and longshoreman Eric Hoffer born this day in 1902.
- TODAY'S WEATHER MINUTE: Rutland Herald content editor Rich Alcott shares local weather information for Friday, July 25, and easily digestible news tidbits: Mysterious enormous hole in the Siberian tundra baffles scientists.
- TODAY'S WEATHER MINUTE: Rutland Herald content editor Rich Alcott shares local weather information and easily digestible news tidbits: Ever wonder why the otherwise straight-lined Appalachian chain's got a big crimp in it in Pennsylvania and and New York?
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Scott Milne opens campaign for governor's office, crime statistics fall in city, new home for homeless prevention center, traffic cameras are not watching you, capital panel hears testimony about protecting children.
- TODAY'S WEATHER MINUTE: Rutland Herald content editor Rich Alcott shares local weather information and easily digestible news tidbits: America's feet getting bigger than ever, and Americans keep jamming their feet into small sized shoes. Wake up, America!
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: Vanessa Williams resigns from Miss America pageant after Bob Guccione publishes nude photos of her in Penthouse magazine and Hefner takes the high road; on this day in 1995, Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp discover a new comet.