Vermonters from across the State Urge Governor to Sign Overdose Prevention Bill

Press Release May 7, 2024
Media Contact

Maggie Hart, [email protected]

Montpelier, VT. – Today, advocates and community leaders gathered to urge Governor Phil Scott to sign H. 72, a bill that would authorize and fund the state’s first overdose prevention center in Burlington. Speakers included health practitioners who work on the frontlines of the overdose crisis and underscored the dire need for overdose prevention centers, as well as people in recovery who emphasized the importance of preventing people who use drugs from using, and potentially overdosing, alone. Overdose prevention centers have broad support from health policy experts and have been endorsed by over 70 organizations and 500 Vermonters in the OPC Community Support Letter.

Video of the press conference can be found here.

Later in the afternoon the Vermont legislature completed the bill, which now advances to the Governor’s desk after receiving strong margins of support in both chambers. At the press conference, speakers from Vermont Overdose Prevention Network, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, Addiction Recovery Channel, and Vermont Interfaith Alliance applauded the state legislature for their leadership and implored the Governor to heed the mountain of evidence that shows overdose prevention centers save lives and benefit communities.

“We need to bring people inside. We need to accept people when they’re struggling the most,” said Jess Kirby, Director of Client Services at Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform. “We ask people if they’ve used alone, and very often the answer is yes, they’ve used alone in the past week. Everybody pretty much has. And we hear about the barriers to not using alone — the fear, anxiety and shame they experience.”

“We all know the status quo isn’t working – it’s not working for anyone,” said Rev. Elissa Johnk, Executive Director, Vermont Interfaith Alliance. “We all recognize that Vermont values demand that we follow the research – that we follow the ways to save lives like we would any other disease.”

Ed Baker, Education Specialist for the Addiction Recovery Channel and a person in recovery commended the Vermont Senate and House for embracing a public health approach to the overdose crisis. “There’s a resounding vote of yes,” said Baker. “Yes, to compassion. Yes, to a non-punitive approach to a population in need of safety, in need of protection and quality healthcare. We Vermonters choose to stand with our family members and our neighbors at high risk for accidental drug overdose. And we choose to provide immediate access to lifesaving interventions in the form of an overdose prevention center in Vermont.”

“Seven years ago, the Governor said the research on OPCs was ‘inconclusive whether they would help or not’, but that he’s ‘willing to listen.’ Since then, fatal overdoses have steadily increased to record levels — and now there’s vast research showing conclusive benefits of OPCs,” said Grey Gardner, Senior Policy Counsel for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), following last week’s Senate vote.

Gardner continued: “If the Governor goes back and listens to the extensive testimony, to the experts, including Vermonters working in the harm reduction and addiction-support communities, he will hear clearly that OPCs work. This is not only a very pragmatic, cost-effective and evidence-based tool for reducing overdose deaths, but supporting this legislation is also going to benefit the broader communities where they’re located.”

The legislation represents a needed intervention for Vermont, which has seen a 500% increase in overdose deaths since 2010, losing over 1,500 community members to preventable overdose deaths since 2014. 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.

Two years ago, OnPoint NYC opened the first sanctioned overdose prevention centers in New York City, where they have intervened in over 1,200 potential drug overdoses, connected participants to vital resources, and reduced the presence of hazardous waste in nearby neighborhoods. Three years ago, Rhode Island voted to authorize overdose prevention centers, and is expected to open their first facility in Providence later this summer.  The progress being made in Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, and elsewhere across the country demonstrates that local governments have the ability, and a responsibility, to respond to this unmitigated crisis by embracing research-backed health interventions including overdose prevention centers.

More Information:

Fact sheet: Overdose prevention centers

Fact sheet: Clearing the legal path for overdose prevention centers

An overview of overdose prevention centers



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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