R. Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, applauded the state's efforts to combat the growing heroin problem that was highlighted by Gov. Peter Shumlin during his State of the State speech. During the January speech Shumlin said called heroin abuse a public health problem that cannot be solved by law enforcement alone.
"In a state the size of Vermont you can serve as a model and a blueprint," Kerlikowske said at the meeting attended by Shumlin, top public safety officials and Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen.
"Vermont wants to lead the way in treating this as a disease," Shumlin said.
As part of that effort, Chen said the rules for emergency medical technicians are being changed so ambulances will be able to carry the heroin overdose antidote naloxone - commonly known by the brand name Narcan.
And Col. Tom L'Esperance, the head of the Vermont State Police, said that it's hoped that in about six weeks all state police troopers will be trained to use naloxone.
After the Waterbury meeting, Kerlikowske and Shumlin planned to tour a methadone clinic in South Burlington and meet with emergency room staff at the state's largest hospital, Fletcher Allen Health Care.
Fighting opiate addiction has been a top priority for Shumlin.