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Vermont treatment centers track use of heroin antidote

MONTPELIER — A bulletin board in the HowardCenter Safe Recovery center near downtown Burlington shows check marks made in the last six months when a heroin antidote drug has been used to revive someone found unresponsive after using opiates.

By the end of June, the bulletin board had 37 check marks — equivalent to more than one a week — since the Vermont Health Department began distributing the Naloxone kits directly to addicts, their friends, or their relatives.

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‘‘It helped generate interest,’’ said Tom Dalton, coordinator for the HowardCenter’s Safe Recovery program. ‘‘And they see that and think, ‘Wow, it’s really working.’ ’’

The Vermont Legislature passed a law last year that allows people close to addicts to distribute Naloxone to them.

The same law also made it possible for people to call for help for an overdosing addict without fear of being prosecuted.

The law was passed before Governor Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State speech in January to the state’s struggle with heroin and other opiate drugs.

In December, the Vermont Health Department began distributing the Naloxone kits to five locations that provide services to drug users.

The Health Department says 38 kits were used in the first six months, with 37 of those distributed by the HowardCenter.

Officials can’t say whether the kits saved any lives. They say some users might have survived without the Naloxone, but the kits aren’t given unless the victim is unresponsive. It’s likely that many would have died.

Kits have also been distributed in White River Junction, which also serves New Hampshire clients, and in the Vermont towns of Rutland, St. Johnsbury, and Berlin.

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