BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 17 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held a student town meeting Friday with the entire student body of Burlington High School and the Burlington Technical Center to discuss the opioid crisis in Vermont and throughout the United States.
“I need your help. Not only for Vermont, but for the entire country,” Sanders told the students. “It is critically important that we have an honest and open discussion about this crisis that claimed the lives of 112 Vermonters last year, and affected thousands more. If we do not have the courage to talk about this issue. We are never, ever going to solve it.”
“None of us are immune to the effects of addiction. It doesn’t matter if you live in New York City or rural Vermont,” said Sanders, who serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Sanders was joined by a panel including: Kelly Breeyear, a Vermonter who shared her personal experience with addiction, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Dr. Heather Stein, associate medical director at the Community Health Centers of Burlington.
“You have a choice now. After you have it in your system, you may not have a choice ever again,” Breeyear said. “We need to start telling the truth. We need your help to find a solution. We need to stop this now.”
Donovan said, “We have to speak out, lift people up and help members of the community with this disease. The opiate crisis doesn't discriminate -- it affects everyone. We all have to work together, from people in government to teachers, students and family members.”
Stein runs Community Health Centers of Burlington’s program that helps patients who are struggling with substance abuse. “Your brain is going to be hooked on something faster than someone twice your age,” Stein told the students. “You’ll do things you can’t imagine now to get narcotics.”
Following the panel discussion, students participated in a question-and-answer session, sharing personal experiences and asking a broad range of questions.
Last year, more than 60,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States, including 112 in Vermont. Narcan was used on more than 2,200 Vermonters last year to reverse the effects of an overdose, according to the Vermont Department of Health.
If you or someone you know needs help with an opioid addiction, call toll free 1-866-652-4636 or dial 2-1-1.