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Vermont governor vetoes safe injection sites for drug users

June 8, 2022 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed a bill aimed in part at creating one or more safe injection sites, also called overdose prevention sites, in Vermont where people could legally use drugs under supervision as a way to reduce overdoses.

Scott, a Republican, wrote in his veto message to lawmakers on Tuesday that “it seems counterintuitive to divert resources from proven harm reduction strategies to plan injection sites without clear data on the effectiveness of this approach.” He wrote that the little data that exists “is for sites located in large cities, so it’s not applicable to the vast majority of Vermont.”

Such sites are equipped and staffed to reverse overdoses.

The bill noted that there has been a rapid increase in overdose deaths across Vermont, with a record number of opioid-related deaths last year. It would have set up a committee to examine the feasibility and liability of such sites and to come up with a plan to implement one or more in Vermont.

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Scott wrote in his veto letter that before the pandemic the state was making progress treating opioid addiction with its “groundbreaking” hub-and-spoke treatment system, comprised of regional treatment centers and clinicians who treat opioid use disorders in their own practices, as well as medically assisted treatment for inmates. Other strategies include syringe programs, distribution of the opioid overdose antidote Narcan, fentanyl test strips and community education, he wrote.

“These are proven, evidence-based approaches to saving lives but we must also continue to focus on preventing addiction in the first place and supporting people through treatment and recovery,” Scott wrote.