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City of Burlington and Burlington Police Department Announce New Efforts to Free the City from the Grip of the Opioid Epidemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 10, 2016
Contact:  Katie Vane
                  802.734.0617

City of Burlington and Burlington Police Department Announce New Efforts to Free the City from the Grip of the Opioid Epidemic
BPD hires new Opioid Policy Coordinator, gathers stakeholders for first CommunityStat meeting

Burlington, VT – Today Mayor Miro Weinberger, Burlington Police Department (BPD) Chief Brandon del Pozo, new BPD Opioid Policy Coordinator Jackie Corbally, CommunityStat Co-Chair Jane Helmstetter, Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen, Howard Center Chief Client Services Officer Catherine Simonson, Chittenden County Opioid Alliance Project Director Cathy Aikman, and United Way of Northern Vermont Executive Director Martha Maksym announced a new, innovative, public health effort to bring an end to the opioid epidemic that has profoundly impacted residents of Burlington. That effort, called “CommunityStat,” will be coordinated by Corbally, who brings 30 years of experience engaging in a vast array of both practical and policy-oriented public health initiatives, and directed by Chief del Pozo and the Mayor.  CommunityStat is one of four Action Teams working under the umbrella of the newly formed Chittenden County Opioid Alliance.

CommunityStat will attempt to reverse the opioid challenge by approaching it as a public health challenge that requires collaboration and coordination of efforts among all the community stakeholders engaged in responding to it. Stakeholders include the Vermont Department of Health, University of Vermont Medical Center, Community Health Centers of Burlington, the State’s Attorney’s Office, State Attorney General, the Community Justice Center, Howard Center, United Way, Turning Point Center, Steps to End Domestic Violence, Champlain Housing Trust, Burlington Housing Authority, King Street Center, Outright Vermont, Spectrum Youth & Family Services, and many more.

Many of these stakeholders participated in the City’s first CommunityStat meeting on November 10. The BPD held an initial stakeholder meeting in September of 2016 to explain the goal of and solicit input on CommunityStat, an adaptation of a tool for transparency and mutual accountability that has been shown to bring about meaningful progress in response to problems confronting municipalities such as crime, homelessness, domestic violence, and in this case, substance abuse.

CommunityStat will adhere to the four traditional core principles of its model:

  1. Accurate and timely data and information
  2. Effective tactics and strategies
  3. Rapid deployment of resources
  4. Relentless follow-up and assessment

CommunityStat will provide coordination of effort among the police, public health and safety professionals, and social service providers to more effectively reduce the impact of opioid addiction in Burlington.

“On Chief del Pozo’s first day a little more than a year ago, I directed him to assess the Police Department and the City’s efforts to address the opioid challenge,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Since that time we have dramatically increased foot patrols, deployed Noloaxone to all officers, and advocated strongly for treatment without delay in Chittenden County. Today, with the launching of CommunityStat, we have opened a major new front in our critical effort to address our most urgent public health challenge.”

“If you follow the four principles of CommunityStat in good faith, you can’t help but see better outcomes,” said Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo. “I’m excited by the widespread commitment so many of Burlington’s community partners have made to working together in a transparent and accountable way to help improve the lives of the people in the greatest state of need. I’m looking forward to the Police Department leading by example in our willingness to innovate and collaborate with our partners in response to this public health crisis.”

“I am thrilled to work with the City and with our vast array of community partners as we develop an innovative approach to address the opioid epidemic,” said Jackie Corbally, Burlington Police Department Opioid Policy Coordinator. “I look forward maintaining our transparency and accountability as we coordinate our efforts to reduce the burden of an epidemic that affects all residents of Burlington.”

“It has taken us a long time to get here, and I’m very heartened by the good questions that people came up with at our first CommunityStat meeting, and the difficult conversations that we were able to have around the table instead of out in the parking lot,” said Jane Helmstetter, CommunityStat Co-Chair and Vermont Agency of Human Services Field Director, Burlington District. “I’m excited to be here representing the Agency of Human Services in the Burlington District, and to be co-chair of this effort.”

“I am pleased to see the City and so many agencies taking a leadership role to address a serious public health challenge in our community,” said Dr. Harry Chen, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health. “I am hopeful that this new, cooperative approach will yield positive results, and look forward to future CommunityStat meetings.”

“We are excited and proud to be a partner in addressing this critical issue,” said Eileen Whalen, MHA, RN, President and COO of the University of Vermont Medical Center. “By working together and coordinating our resources, all of the agencies addressing opioid abuse and dependency can make a larger impact.”

“Howard Center has a long history in this community as a treatment provider for those impacted by opioid addiction,” said Catherine Simonson, Howard Center Chief Client Services Officer. “We welcome the commitment of the City and other key community leaders to collectively focus our efforts toward a common agenda to address this serious public health crisis in our community.  Howard Center will be actively involved in the CommunityStat efforts as part of the Chittenden County Opioid Alliance.  We owe our citizens this collective effort.”

“The Chittenden County Opioid Alliance is based on a collective impact approach where a variety of organizations that share a common agenda and goals join together to have a greater effect than they might have on their own,” said Cathy Aikman, Project Director for the Chittenden County Opioid Alliance. “CommunityStat is an important part of the Alliance, and we are looking forward to all of our collaborators working together to create a common data system to monitor key opioid measures across all partner organizations. This collective work to establish shared program measures is essential to evaluate and employ successful strategies to impact the opioid crisis in Chittenden County.”

"United Way of Northern Vermont is proud to stand with so many different partners from across the county working together as a collective to tackle this serious challenge faced by our community," said Martha Maksym, Executive Director of United Way. "One of our top priorities as an organization has been to find ways to align the different strategies to respond to the opioid challenge that cross agencies, sectors, and professional fields. CommunityStat is a bold and innovative piece of the collective response we need."

Vermont’s growing opioid crisis

In his landmark 2014 State of the Union address, Governor Peter Shumlin called attention to the state’s growing opioid crisis and highlighted the need for Vermont to change its approach from conducting a war on drugs through the criminal process, to working with police, courts, prosecutors and defenders, and the treatment community to treat addiction as an issue of public health. By the time of the Governor’s address, Vermont had seen a 771% increase in treatment for all opiates since 2000, over five times as many federal indictments against heroin dealers as had been obtained in 2010, and nearly double the deaths from heroin and opioids in Vermont in 2013 as in 2012.

Since the time of Governor Shumlin’s address, Vermont has become a recognized leader in its response to opioids. In Burlington, police officers now carry and use naloxone to save lives. Chief del Pozo has increased foot and bike patrols in the neighborhoods most affected by opioid abuse and stepped up coordination between law enforcement and other agencies with the knowledge that addicts in many cases require treatment instead of incarceration.

In spite of these efforts, Burlington, like many of the state’s cities and towns, is still seeking to determine the full scope of its local opioid challenge so that it can strengthen and focus the collaborative efforts between stakeholders addressing different aspects of the epidemic. Current data suggests Burlington is still in the grip of the opioid crisis, but more data is needed. The new efforts announced today will allow the City, BPD, and stakeholders for the first time to coordinate and comprehensively measure their progress, making that data and its findings available and accountable to the public. This combination of innovation, data-driven policy and strategy, collaboration, and accountability to citizens will provide a clarified and transparent process by which Burlington can continue the life-saving work of resolving the opioid epidemic.

CommunityStat stakeholders are as follows:

Boys and Girls Club

Burlington Housing Authority

Burlington Police Department

Champlain Housing Trust

Chittenden County Opioid Alliance

City of Burlington

The Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS)

Community Health Centers of Burlington

Howard Center

King Street Center

Lund

Matrix Health Systems

New England HIDTA

Outright Vermont

Partnership for Change

Pathways Vermont

Sara Holbrook Community Center

Spectrum Youth & Family Services

Steps to End Domestic Violence

The Turning Point Center of Chittenden County

United Way

University of Vermont, Vermont Center on Behavior and Health

University of Vermont Medical Center

Vermont Agency of Human Services

Vermont Attorney General

Vermont Department for Children and Families

Vermont Department of Corrections

Vermont Department of Health

Vermont Department of Justice

 

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