Following a morning press conference in St. Albans at which he received endorsements from mayors past and present, TJ Donovan unveiled a prescription drug plan that he says will serve as “a cornerstone policy of his campaign.”
St. Albans has become a poster city for Vermont’s prescription drug problem, with local officials attributing chronic public-safety issues to rampant opiate abuse.
Former St. Albans mayors Peter Deslauriers and Martin Manahan, as well as current mayor, Liz Gamache, all formally endorsed Donovan today.
You might remember Manahan from the 2010 cycle, when the Democrat enthusiastically endorsed Republican Brian Dubie. Manahan was so hot on Shumlin’s rival that he was featured in a 30-second TV spot entitled “Democrats for Dubie.”
“The last thing Brian cares about is what party I belong to,” Manahan said in the ad. “He cares about our community and the state ofVermont.”
This year, Manahan is a Democrat for Donovan.
“TJ has fought alongside us in the battle against the number one criminal activity our state is facing,” Manahan said in a release from the Donovan campaign. “We need an Attorney General that has not lost the connection to our local communities.”
Manahan had some rough words for Bill Sorrell, who has, according the former mayor, been a no-show in St. Albans, despite the city’s well-chronicled narcotics woes.
“I was disappointed that during my six years as mayor, I never had any contact from Attorney General Sorrell,” Manahan said. “I think the highest ranking member in theVermont law enforcement community should have offered his support in our efforts fighting the prescription drug epidemic our community was facing.”
Manahan’s comments, and the Donovan campaign’s decision to feature them so prominently in a press release, spotlight the challenger’s newfound willingness to go more directly after Sorrell’s record.
The release comes literally one day after Donovan, at Sorrell’s behest, signed a “positive campaign pledge.”
In doing so, Donovan has vowed not to “engage in, permit or condone any negative or defamatory attacks upon my opponent’s character.”
Donovan looks to be on safe ground here, with Manahan’s jab directed at Sorrell’s job as AG, not his constitution as a human being.
Anyway, here’s the text of Donovan’s prescription drug plan:
Sharing Our Common Responsibility
Building an Informed Community Solution to Vermont’s Prescription Drug Problem
Vermont is facing a drug epidemic that is damaging our communities. Drugs like Oxycontin, Oxycodone, and other opiates have risen to the top of the most abused drugs in Vermont.
Drug-induced death rates nationwide have tripled since 1990 (1). Over-the-counter prescription drugs account for approximately 40 deaths each day (2). For the first time ever in 2009, drug deaths outnumbered traffic fatalities in the United States (3). Some of these drugs, like relative newcomer Fentanyl, can be up to 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine (4).
According to a July 23, 2011 report by Sam Hemingway in the Burlington Free Press, based on information from the Vermont Dept. of Health, in 2010 prescription opiate overdose deaths accounted for more than half of all fatal drug overdoses in Vermont for the sixth consecutive year (5). The report indicated that in 2010 more people were prosecuted in Federal court in Vermont for illicit trafficking in oxycodone and other opiates than any other drug. The report also indicated that Vermont ranks second in the country, behind only Maine, in per-capita treatment admissions for addiction to opiates. The report indicated that the number of Vermonters looking for treatment for addiction to opiates has jumped by 300% since 2005. In 2008, Vermont ranked 31st among the states in rate of drugs overdose deaths per 100,000 population (6).
More importantly, the demand for these drugs drives crime. In Chittenden County, we continue to grapple with petty crime, home intrusions, robberies, break-ins and thefts involving drug-addicted individuals looking for the closest medicine cabinet or source of funds to feed their addiction.
Clearly, there is work to be done and the office of Attorney General should play an important role in leading the charge in addressing prescription drug abuse. Our next Attorney General can do more for Vermont.
My plan addresses these issues by staying watchful for signs of abuse, offering relief and support to those who ask for help, providing safe disposal for medications, and offering sanctuary to those in danger.
GOOD SAMARITAN LAW:
We can no longer turn away from the epidemic that is killing our neighbors. Vermont cannot afford to lose another life in this battle against addiction. As Attorney General, I will work with law enforcement, community organizations and the legislature to establish a “Good Samaritan Law,” which will allow individuals who are overdosing on prescription drugs to seek emergency medical help without the fear of facing charges. We should not prosecute those who seek sanctuary in this way for the pills in their pocket.
We have long been tough crime. Now we need to be smart on crime. To be smart on crime we must focus on treatment, provide support services and ensure that law enforcement is informed about addiction issues. The Attorney General should lead on this issue and work together with local communities to change the way we handle drug abuse here in Vermont.
Vermont must improve its drug screening capabilities. Screening for heroin, cocaine and marijuana is now common, and screening for opiates must be as well. We must work to prevent the escalating cost of life associated with opiate overdoses and deaths. As Attorney General, I will work shoulder to shoulder with Vermont’s medical community and drug screening organizations as well as recovery and addiction organizations like Spectrum and the Lund Family Center. We can collaboratively re-build our criminal justice system with a foundational rock of treatment, not the shifting sands of incarceration.
MORE BEDS FOR TREATMENT:
Vermont must focus on treatment and rehabilitation. We must meet the needs of addicted Vermonters. When we fail to commit needed resources, we not only fail our neighbors, but we also put our communities at risk.
As Attorney General, I will work aggressively with the Department of Health, Governor Shumlin and others to make sure that more treatment beds are available. Being smart on crime means committing to having resources and systems available to help people get back on their feet and become productive members of society. Now is the time for the Attorney General to lead the way, fight to keep our communities whole and healthy, and make sure we have the resources to treat people in need.
PILL TAKE BACK:
The most dangerous drugs in the house are the ones you forgot you had. Many times, these pills are leftovers from past surgeries or are prescriptions that have long run out. Currently, we are relying on the federal government, which has begun organizing “Pill Take Back Days” in some communities. We must be more aggressive. As Attorney General, I will work with local law enforcement, pharmacists, and the medical community to develop and implement a simple plan for easy, safe and secure disposal of these highly addictive drugs and an aggressive outreach program to educate Vermonters about the importance of safe prescription drug disposal.