Below please find:
1. Brenda's 4 Part Plan as it is in progress.
2. Full Text of the speech Brenda gave when releasing the plan.
3. Link to the video of the press conference when the plan was released.
Thank you to the many experts and champions who are engaged in making this plan the plan of our state.
"On March 7th, I decided to run for Governor. On March 8th, I received a call while standing on Elliot ST in Brattleboro in the middle of a snow storm, that my nephew, Kaya Siegel, had died of a Heroin overdose in the bathroom at his work. Kaya is the son of my brother who died twenty years ago of a Heroin Overdose.
My brother did not suffer from Opiate Use Disorder, Kaya did.
I watched the system fail him time and time again. When he was young in treatment for mental illness and was abused there, when he sought treatment at Maple leaf and they closed without warning and without placing their patients where they could continue their treatment, with the lack of harm reduction and adequate treatment throughout the state and finally within the criminal justice system.
Kaya had been sober for almost a year. He almost made it and then he didn’t.
The people suffering are our nephews, our children, our parents, and our neighbors. They are our community members and loved ones. They are every one of you whether you know someone or not.
We are raising a generation of kids for whom it is normal to lose people to overdose — so normal that they have rituals for when their friends die. A generation of parents are losing their children.
In Vermont, we have the opportunity to implement model policies that will increase awareness about the need to fund harm-reduction services and organizations.
Nothing that I say today will change the outcome for my family, because we already lost our battle. I am standing before you today with those suffering who have not yet lost, with those who don’t know where to turn, with those who’s homes and cars have been broken into, with public officials who have been fighting for a stronger plan. I stand before you to say enough is enough. I stand before you having lost and with all who have lost. I stand before you to put forth my plan to ‘Heal the Opioid Epidemic’. I dedicate this plan to my nephew Kaya Siegel and to all who have lost their lives.
What we have been doing is not working. When overdose deaths continue to rise year after year in this state, when we continue to criminalize a disease, for no positive outcome, while we have NO long-term treatment options, Vermont should not be patting itself on the back.
It is true that the increase in heroin-related deaths slowed between 2016 and 2017, however, the actual number of deaths still went up.
We should be getting to work.
It is time to be bold. It is time to lead with love and compassion, not stigma and shame. It is time to use practices that we know work to stop death and reduce the collateral damage associated with this disease.
Today, with the support of the State’s Attorney for Chittenden County, and those on the front lines, I present my plan to heal the opioid epidemic to the State of Vermont.
This plan is bold, compassionate, and most importantly, effective.
We will focus on 4 areas:
Harm Reduction FIRST,.
Treatment on Demand, Recovery, and Prevention,
And Criminal Justice Reform.
Harm Reduction First:
In other countries where they have established strong decriminalization and harm reduction practices deaths have slowed or stopped.
Already right here in Burlington Harm Reduction is used to keep dirty needles off the street, prevent spread of disease with clean needle exchanges and unlimited use of Narcan, the drug that stops Overdose. This is not true across the state.
We will establish harm reduction centers in all counties. At those centers these services will be provided:
• Clean needle exchange
• Unlimited Narcan.
• Fentanyl Testing facilities..
• Overdose Prevention Sites
• Medically assisted treatment on demand.
• In addition to support staff, therapists, nurses and social workers who can help people seek treatment.
Safe Recovery, at the Howard Center, Grace Keller and her amazing team have demonstrated that when people feel safe, deaths and collateral damage go down.
I will also be looking into Mobile Harm Reduction Units to reach rural areas. I live in Newfane Vermont. It is rural, and quiet. On Green Up Day, I found a suboxone wrapper in the woods.
This epidemic is affecting every inch of this state, even our most rural areas, we must make sure treatment options reach those areas.
In Portugal, they have developed mobile treatment centers, We can bring this innovation here to Vermont.
Next we will have Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention:
I was shocked to find that organizations are not required to report that they have a waiting list until the wait time has reached 30 days.
The notion that Vermont has no wait times is false.
We must acknowledge the wait times, and work to eliminate them. We don’t make those with broken bones or failing organs wait until a bed opens in this state.
My plan requires us to strengthen our health care system and meet basic requirements of treatment of this disease as we would any other. This includes:
• Treatment on Demand.
• Medically Assisted treatment on demand.
• Medicaid to cover long term treatment.
• Work to find a path to fund ACT 48
• Health care access.
Additionally, it is critical that we invest in Dual Diagnosis Support:
• Opiate Use Disorder is an illness; the underlying cause of which is often other mental illness, trauma or physical illness.
Dual-Diagnosis Support requires us to ensure that there are adequate, fully funded and staffed mental health services and health care available to serve all of our communities and access to insurance to cover these services.
Finally, we must commit to serious reforms within our criminal justice system:
A few weeks ago, I visited a treatment court, in Barre. Had my nephew been treated with the compassion that Judge Pact and the team there, treated the people in his courtroom, he would not have gone into a shame spiral and eventually relapsed, he would be alive today. There is no doubt in my mind. We must have compassionate treatment courts in every county. Many prosecutors’ offices are asking for funding to do so, and we need to make that happen.
In Burlington, Sarah George and Brandon DelPozo have effectively decriminalized bupernorphine as they announced that they will no longer prosecute or arrest for possession of this drug. A choice to use Suboxone, Bupernorphine is a choice not to use Heroin, it is the safe choice, it is a choice not to die. I urge every. Single. States attorney and every single police chief to stop arresting and prosecuting for possession of this drug today. This can be done today at no cost and will in fact save money in this state. This does not need a plan it is already within your power.
It is time that we treat this disease like a disease, not a crime. My plan will include:
• Treatment Courts in every county:
• Every prosecutor, judge, and law enforcement officer across the state will be required to be trained and literate in this disease.
• Create a model training program in this state.
• Recognize cannabis is a safe alternative to Opioids;
• Decriminalizing street Bupernorphine also known as Suboxone
• Automatic expungement for any crimes that are currently eligible for expungement and anything that the legislature legalizes.
My nephew had been sober for a year before he died; He returned to Vermont to face an outstanding warrant that had been issued for him missing a court date while he was in treatment, you would not be issued a warrant if you were in jail. We must stop criminalizing and arresting people for doing the right thing and seeking help.
This plan can be paid for, over time, with a tax and regulate system for cannabis and cost savings from reduction of emergency room visits, surgeries and other care.
Based off of the RAND study, the conservative estimate from tax revenue alone for the sale of Cannibis is $25 million dollars. The range is $25 - $75 million.
Some of that money can be used to invest in a down payment on this plan. The plan, like the revenue from cannabis, will come incrementally.
$15 million dollars can be used to fund the parts of this plan that are already in the states power to implement immediately.
With the rest, we can create endowments, to support our schools and children. To educate the upcoming generation about Opiate Use Disorder, so that we can prevent another generation from suffering this disease.
REGARDLESS OF your opinion or belief, we have good evidence that what we are doing is not working. Our best chance at safe communities and raising children who don’t experience the death of their friends with great frequency is to follow best practices that lead to people having the tools to get help or reduce the harm of their use.
We know this; we don’t have another direction. The old way isn’t working. It is time for change.
Life expectancy of our children just went down for the second year in a row due to opioids and gun death.
Our children are dying. We have no choice but to do better. We owe it to them.
Enough people have lost their lives, enough houses have been broken into, enough money has been wasted perpetuating stigma and shame.
Now is the time to be bold.
Now is the time to lead with love and compassion.
now is time to do the right thing
We must implement this plan in the state of Vermont. We can no longer sit on the side lines patting ourselves on the back for incremental progress while families, families standing before you today suffer the outcome of us not doing what we need to to stop this disease.
If I become your governor, this plan will be a priority of my administration. We will fund it responsibly and we will no longer kick the can down the road. We will roll up our sleeves to do the work and Vermont will lead the country in the healing of the Opioid Epidemic. We have the opportunity to heal and lead and it is my promise to you that we will do that."