Vermont Legislature Enacts Lifesaving Overdose Prevention Center Legislation, Overriding Governor Scott’s Veto

Statement Grey Gardner June 17, 2024
Media Contact

Maggie Hart, [email protected]

Montpelier, V.T. – Today, the Vermont legislature successfully enacted H. 72, legislation that authorizes and funds an overdose prevention center (OPC) pilot in Burlington, Vermont. While Governor Phil Scott issued a veto and sought to kill the bill, the House and Senate ultimately voted to override it. The bill was originally passed by strong majorities in both houses of the legislature and was supported by treatment providers, harm reduction advocates, public health experts, clergy, and families who have lost loved ones to overdose. The vote means Vermont will join Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York City, and a number of other locations across the globe in embracing OPCs as an evidence-based tool in saving lives, and a key part of a public health response to the overdose crisis.

Grey Gardner, Senior Policy Counsel for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), a leading supporter of the legislation, released the following statement in response to the vote:

“We are extremely grateful that the legislature stood firm to prioritize saving lives and improving access to care. Every day, preventable overdoses claim the lives of too many of our family members, neighbors, and loved ones. In Vermont, which has seen a 500% increase in overdose deaths since 2010, the stakes couldn’t be clearer. Our communities cannot afford to return to punishment as the primary response to the overdose crisis. And that’s why we are glad to see Vermont elected officials, advocates, and community members embrace lifesaving OPCs.

“We are especially grateful to the Vermont legislators who listened to experts, reviewed the research, and changed their views on the issue. This is what real courage, real leadership looks like. But that courage was not universally shared. Vermont Governor Phil Scott, like Governor Newsom in California, Governor Hochul in New York, Mayor Parker in Philadelphia, and others across the country, defaulted to stigma and tried to stand in the way of progress. He has vetoed OPC legislation several times, and while the legislature overturned this year’s veto, the close vote margin underscores what we are up against. In places across the country, Democrat and Republican lawmakers alike are trying to double down on the drug war and failed punitive approaches of the past. But even when leaders choose political convenience over the wellbeing of their constituents, we remain clear: health crises deserve health solutions.”

“The campaign to bring an overdose prevention center to Vermont is the result of years of thoughtful and courageous leadership, hard work, and grassroots advocacy. We waged this campaign alongside health leaders, treatment experts, people in recovery, people who have lost loved ones to overdose, legislators, and people who use drugs. Together, we presented the facts. Overdose prevention centers save lives, expand access to lifesaving harm reduction services, and connect people with the care they need, including evidence-based treatment. OPCs bring drug use indoors, reduce the presence of hazardous waste in nearby neighborhoods, and are supported by a mountain of research that shows they work.

“This is far from the end of this journey. We will continue working to expand OPCs and other evidence-based, health solutions to the overdose crisis nationwide. Because no one has to die of a preventable overdose.”


Vermont has lost over 1,500 community members to preventable overdose deaths since 2014. Decades of research has shown that OPCs save lives and provide better connections to care. One study showed 42% of OPC clients who were not in treatment when the study began had enrolled in treatment within 24 months. By establishing trusted relationships with professionals whose approach is neither judgmental nor coercive, OPCs provide steady support that prepares individuals for entry into treatment when they are ready.  Additionally, The American Society of Addiction Medicine (AMA) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) have urged communities to pilot OPCs.

In 2022, New York City became the first place in the United States to open locally-approved overdose prevention centers, which are operated by OnPoint NYC. Since then, a number of cities and states across the country have made significant progress toward opening overdose prevention centers as part of a larger strategy to prevent overdoses, improve access to care, and improve public health.

Three years ago, Rhode Island voted to authorize overdose prevention centers, and in 2023 Minnesota became the second state to move forward on OPCs. This year, Providence City Council voted to authorize Project Weber/RENEW, a community-based outreach and harm reduction service provider, and VICTA, an outpatient substance use disorder and mental health treatment provider, to operate Rhode Island’s first overdose prevention center, slated to open later this summer.

The progress being made across the country demonstrates that local governments have the ability, and a responsibility, to respond to this unmitigated crisis. The unregulated, increasingly potent drug supply and the spread of fentanyl have driven an increase in overdose deaths nationwide, with 109,000 people dying of a fatal overdose in 2022.

Overdose prevention centers provide immediate benefits to participants and communities by bringing drug use indoors, cleaning up neighborhoods, and making connections to resources, care, and treatment. OnPoint NYC staff have intervened in an estimated 1,538 potential overdoses, properly disposed of over 2.5 million units of hazardous waste that would otherwise remain in communities and assisted over 5,127 community members get the care they need.

Over 500 Vermonters representing over 70 cities and towns across Vermont, and over 50 organizations, signed a public letter in support of OPCs, which was sent to legislators in April. Vermont addiction treatment professionals, recovery program providers, homelessness service providers, and family members who have lost loved ones to overdose offered strong support for the opening of an OPC.

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About the Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization in the U.S. working to end the drug war, repair its harms, and build a non-punitive, equitable, and regulated drug market. We envision a world that embraces the full humanity of people, regardless of their relationship to drugs. We advocate that the regulation of drugs be grounded in evidence, health, equity, and human rights. In collaboration with other movements and at every policy level, we change laws, advance justice, and save lives. Learn more at

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