letters | battling addiction in vermont

In face of fiscal downturn, treatment must provide hope for future

The small city of St. Albans, Vt., has struggled with the rise in opiate abuse that has beset the state.
Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff
The small city of St. Albans, Vt., has struggled with the rise in opiate abuse that has beset the state.

I have provided treatment to addicts for more than 25 years. The city where I work was recently the focus of a documentary, “The Hungry Heart,” produced by director Bess O’Brien, which Brian MacQuarrie cited in his article “On the long trail back to hope” (Page A1, Jan. 19). Although the film chronicles drug use and recovery in St. Albans, Vt., the problem is not unique to this city. This is a nationwide problem.

Here in Vermont, Governor Peter Shumlin in his State of the State address identified drug use as the state’s biggest problem and asked for more treatment opportunities. I find this encouraging.

However, we need treatment that provides hope for the future. It is no coincidence that the opiate crisis coincides with the largest economic downturn in 80 years, which has upset the economic security that communities and individuals have benefited from previously.


Without jobs, adequate education, and affordable housing, individuals in recovery face great challenges trying to remain sober. Money directed into treatment must include programs that improve job skills and provide Vermonters with a sense of purpose. We need a holistic approach that involves all community members and includes educators, physicians, and mental health counselors.

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In our community in St. Albans, we have developed a model that unites addiction and mental health treatment, supportive case management, employment services, and medical services. With more resources and time, this multifaceted approach may be the key to solving the opiate addiction crisis that affects our entire community.

Ed Williamson

Clinical coordinator

Howard Center

St. Albans, Vt.