Mayor Weinberger Celebrates One Year of Operations at Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform Specialized Re-entry and Recovery Center in Burlington

Mayor Commits to Additional Funding to Support VCJR Center for Justice-Involved People 

Burlington, Vt. – On August 15, 2023, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform (VCJR) celebrated the completion of their first year operating Vermont’s first specialized re-entry and recovery center for justice-involved people living with substance use disorders.  The center is located at 109 Bank Street at the corner of Bank and Pine Streets in downtown Burlington. 

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has been the lead champion in establishing the center, which is financially supported by the City of Burlington, University of Vermont Medical Center, Ben & Jerry’s Foundation and others. 

"The magnitude of the overdose crisis in Vermont is heartbreaking, and one of the few bright spots in our current response is the success of the new re-entry and recovery center at VCJR,” said Mayor Weinberger. “We have to make this our number one public health priority – this moment demands new innovations in treatment and near heroic efforts at harm reduction. By focusing on this high-risk population and introducing new strategies like contingency management, VCJR is helping our community meet the moment.”  

The Mayor announced that, in the absence of any financial support from the State of Vermont, the City will be chipping in another $75,000 this year from Burlington’s allocation of opioid settlement funds in addition to the $173,051 of CDBG funds and $62,500 from the non-profit ARPA grant program the City has already committed to VCJR since late 2022. 

“Prepared or not, people are coming home to their communities every day,” said Tom Dalton, Executive Director of VCJR. “Incarcerated people listed improving re-entry support as their number one need, and the need is huge. Addressing unmet needs within this high-impact group of people is resulting in profound benefits for justice-involved people as well as for their children and communities.” 

“VCJR are the ones you can call on whether it be you’re getting out of jail, headed to court, just relapsed or doing your best to prevent a relapse,” said Tyler Sears, a client at VCJR. “They even reach out to you when you’re in jail or pick you up on your first day out to welcome you back and make sure you have everything you need.” 

The Mayor recently released a report saying that between January and July of 2023, the Burlington Police Department (BPD) responded to a record 265 overdoses, already surpassing the prior year’s total. Overdose responses increased by 75% between 2021 and 2022, and could increase as much as 100% between 2022 and 2023. City analysts project the total number of incidents to approach 500 by the end of the year.  

Justice-involved people are among the most vulnerable to fatal overdoses. Risk of overdose death increases dramatically during the weeks following release from incarceration. According to researchers at the University of Vermont, only 22% of prison staff say Vermont is doing a good job preparing people for release from incarceration.   

VCR has served 168 unduplicated, high-risk justice-involved people with substance use disorders so far at the center in downtown Burlington. Upon intake, VCJR program participants reported: 

  • 49% were recently released from incarceration 

  • 96% reported extremely low income (based on HUD income guidelines) 

  • 59% were unhoused 

  • 82% tested positive for opioids, 89% tested positive for stimulants and 77% tested positive for both opioids and stimulants (like cocaine and methamphetamine) 

  • 82% reported current injection drug use 

  • 29% had serious wounds or infections (often related to use of drugs containing xylazine) 

  • 52% reported they have experienced serious mental health symptoms related to methamphetamine use 

  • 83% have experience domestic or sexual violence 

  • 82% reported a history of overdose (60% reported an overdose in the last 6 months)(4% reported an overdose within 24 hours prior to intake) 

“People face enormous risks and challenges especially as they return home and VCJR is a place where they can come and get the help they need,” said Jess Kirby, VCJR Director of Client Services. 

VCJR’s center has been helping justice-involved people succeed by providing a range of re-entry and recovery services including overdose prevention, case management, parenting support and help meeting basic needs like housing and transportation. 



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Mayor's Office