Resources available for drug addiction in Bennington County
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | October 14,2013
BENNINGTON — There are more treatment options for people dealing with drug addictions in Bennington County than some residents may realize, but the problem — and the need for even more services — may also be greater than it appears, according to several local health care professionals.
There have been two drug sweeps in Bennington County in less than a year, leading to criminal charges filed against more than 75 people. In response, several professionals who are involved in responding to the drug problems in the Bennington area came together to talk about the available options and the needs that could still be addressed.
Ralph Provenza, executive director of United Counseling Services, provided some statistics to give a sense of the problem. Provenza said his agency, UCS, serves about 3,000 people a year and last year, about 650 people were treated for substance abuse issues. Currently about 410 customers are seeking help with addiction issues.
UCS offers what they call “I-plans,” which include counseling for mental health and substance abuse, in cooperation with the Vermont Department of Corrections and BROC. There are 10 group programs for addiction offered by UCS in Bennington and Manchester.
“I believe that we’re scratching the surface. Clearly there are more people who could use services that we’re not able to reach. There are services we would like to provide that we can’t based on our funding, but it’s a very large and active part of our organization,” Provenza said.
The agency is also involved with the Vermont Blueprint for Health and its development of a “hub and spoke” program. The program calls for hubs, like one planned in Rutland, to deal with those who have the most serious opiate addictions but also spokes that provide appropriate services closer to the patient for those with more manageable problems.
“That’s the ideal model, right? You stay with your medical home, you stay with your regular physician, if they’re able to give you the services and have the resources provided that meet your need,” said Dr. Peter C. Park, a family physician who works at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Deerfield Valley Health Center campus in Wilmington.
Dr. Nels Kloster, an addiction psychiatrist, said treatment is important to all residents.
Kloster cites statistics for methadone treatment and the payback on issues like criminal activity, productivity and health care cost: about $4 for $1 payback on methadone and about $7 for $1 payback on substance treatment in general.
Joan Walsh, director of Turning Point Center of Bennington, said the agency, which supports people fighting addiction on a peer-to-peer basis, offers a “safe place to come be with other people in recovery.”
Turning Point hosts meetings for people who are trying to maintain sobriety from alcohol and drugs and their children or families. They also offer programs for people who want to enter a 12-step program and “recovery coaching.”
Finding information on drug treatment is not always easy. Chief Paul Doucette of the Bennington Police Department said people often turn to the police.
“Oftentimes, what happens is, we go out, we make drug arrests and then I get the phone calls. ‘Well, my family member is addicted to drugs and you need to help.’ Unfortunately, that’s not what we do and I feel badly saying that but it’s the truth,” he said.
Doucette said he believes Bennington could use more resources.
“I’m not opposed to — and I know this is a huge controversial topic — I’m not opposed to putting a hub ... here in Bennington so our people aren’t going over the mountain and going to Wilmington or Brattleboro or eventually up to Rutland,” he said.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Richard “Dick” Sears, D-Bennington County, said he believes the majority of legislators are determined to deal with Vermont’s drug problems in a “rational way.”
On Tuesday, Sears said, the corrections oversight committee will meet and discuss whether the Affordable Care Act will help add new in-patient beds for drug-addiction treatment centers in Vermont.