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Continued: In bucolic Vermont, rising problem of painkiller and heroin abuse stirs a battle cry

  • Article by: WILSON RING , Associated Press
  • Last update: January 15, 2014 - 3:25 PM

He soon became a $500-a-day addict who stole $20,000 worth of equipment from the family farm before his mother introduced him to a local physician who helped him. It took him more than a week to get into a rehabilitation program.

Machia, who lives in Swanton, just a few miles from the Quebec border, managed to overcome his addiction with the help of family, friends and hard work. He said that his experience came before heroin reared its head in Vermont and that he hopes the Legislature can find ways to get people help when they ask for it.

"When people are ready, they have to go," Machia said in the governor's office after the speech. "Three weeks, a month, it's too late by then."

The demand for heroin is being filled by out-of-state drug dealers or Vermonters who travel to cities in southern New England or beyond, where heroin can cost $5 to $10 per bag. A couple of years ago, they were being sold in Vermont for $40, but now they fetch $15 to $20, said Maj. Glenn Hall, head of the Vermont State Police's criminal division.

"For years now when we do heroin cases, we find pills intermixed," Hall said. "Many times heroin users have pills. When they don't have heroin, they're looking for the pill. When they don't have the pills, they're looking for heroin."

Vermont's public health community is responding. Since 2008, the state has funded 11 recovery centers. But the governor says more can be done.

"All of us, together, will drive toward our goal of recovery by working with one another creatively, relentlessly, and without division," Shumlin said during his speech. "We can do this."

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