- Associated Press - Monday, June 16, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The key to overcoming Vermont’s much-publicized battle with heroin and other opiate drugs is working across traditional boundaries of public health, law enforcement, and social services, those battling the scourge said at a Statehouse forum Monday.

Doctors, police, social workers, addiction specialists and others joined by the common goal of rolling back the grip opiate-based drugs is taking on some in Vermont spoke at the forum and they also heard a raw story of addiction from a woman still counting the days she’s been sober.

“Addiction has affected every single aspect of my life. It has changed every single thing about me,” said Raina Lowell, of Montpelier, who has been clean for three years. “I’m not just talking about your run-of-the-mill, losing everything, hurting everyone I love, compromising my values, I mean I did all that too, but I’m talking about something so much bigger than that… Addiction changed the very core of my being.”

Seeking ways to restore the lives hurt by addiction and easing the social dislocation and damage to families that follows was the theme of the daylong conference that brought together leaders from across the state to share their stories of what’s working.

Gov. Peter Shumlin helped make Vermont the center of a national debate about addiction to heroin and other opiate drugs in January when he dedicated his entire state-of-the-state address to the challenge Vermont faces.

Since then, the issue has been the focus of lawmakers and others seeking solutions.

“I think we’ve accomplished one thing for sure,” Shumlin said at Monday’s event. “And that is we have made it possible to talk about addiction and recovery, to talk about what we are doing well and we’re not doing well and most importantly to have a collective conversation about how Vermont leads in getting this right.”

Dr. Mark McGovern, of Norwich, a professor of psychiatry and community and family medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, said he’d been working in the addiction field since 1978 and he was glad to see the community paying attention.

“It feels to me like the cavalry, the reinforcements, have arrived,” McGowan said.

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