I hope you all had a chance to enjoy the fresh snow we received in February. Spring is coming, and with it, Town Meeting Day on March 7. This year’s Burlington ballot includes important votes for our schools and the election of four City Councilors.
[Note: When this column ran in the March issue of the North Avenue News, it included my endorsements of City Council and School Board candidates. As a practice, we post this monthly, informational column to this page on the City’s website after the newspaper is published. When we posted the column this month, the endorsements were inadvertently posted as well. As soon as I became aware of this error on the evening of March 8, we removed the endorsement language from this website page. I regret the error. Sincerely, Mayor Miro Weinberger]
City announces new Opioid Principles, partnerships, and initiatives
As we look forward to spring, we are also looking at ways to reinvigorate one of the City’s most important efforts.
Despite the hard work of many state and local agencies and individuals that undoubtedly has saved lives, opioid-related deaths in the State of Vermont increased by 38 percent in 2016, a stark reminder that we must do more to turn the tide of the opioid crisis. In Chittenden County, indicators such as retail theft and opioid-related arrests also show a growing crisis.
The City of Burlington is redoubling its efforts with new initiatives on numerous fronts of the opioid crisis. On February 16, 2017, we released the City’s new draft Opioid Principles, which are intended to explain our approach to the public, encourage community engagement with these efforts, and guide City employees and officials working on this urgent challenge.
You can view the complete Opioid Principles on the City’s home page at www.burlingtonvt.gov.
To gather public input on these new principles, the City will hold an Opioid Town Hall meeting in Contois Auditorium on March 16 at 6 p.m. before presenting the principles to City Council for final approval.
We also invite you to learn more about the roots of this crisis. On Tuesday, April 4 in Contois Auditorium, the Mayor’s Book Group will discuss Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opioid Epidemic. Author Sam Quinones will speak at the event and participate in a panel discussion.
Free copies of Dreamland are available now for pickup at the Fletcher Free Library and Burlington City Hall. Thanks to the UVM Humanities Center for their continued partnership and sponsorship of this event.
On February 16 we also announced several new, key partnerships and initiatives guided by the City principles that are intended to help turn the tide of the opioid crisis, including:
- South Burlington, Winooski and Colchester Police Departments have joined CommunityStat, the effort begun by Burlington last fall to better coordinate the region’s response to the opioid crisis.
- UVM Medical Center agreed to increase public transparency around opioid prescriptions to ensure that efforts to reduce the availability of prescription opioids and reduce the generation of new addictions are working.
- The State Department of Health agreed to release frequent reports of opioid-related deaths by county and the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office agreed to weekly reporting of untimely opioid-related deaths to give agencies working on this crisis real-time, actionable information about opioid trends.
Guided by the new principles and working in partnerships with these stakeholders, as well as many others through the ongoing CommunityStat effort, we will be better able to focus our efforts where most needed to free Burlington and the region from the grip of this terrible crisis. Our local efforts to address the opioid crisis are gaining momentum, and we will have numerous additional announcements about this issue in the weeks and months ahead. Success in this area will depend on the community understanding the scale and character of this challenge and working together to turn it around.
I look forward to a continuing conversation about these and other important developments in our city. As always, I encourage you to join me at the Bagel Café on Wednesday mornings from 8-9am to share any thoughts or questions you may have. You are also invited to visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MiroBTV/, or follow me on Twitter at @MiroBTV for up-to-date information on the work of the Mayor’s Office and our City Departments. I look forward to seeing you soon.