VT Senate Advances Overdose Prevention Center Legislation, Demonstrating Commitment to Proven Health Interventions

Press Release May 1, 2024
Media Contact

Maggie Hart [email protected]

Montpelier, V.T. – Today, the Vermont Senate voted 21-8 to embrace an evidence-based solution to the overdose crisis by advancing legislation that would authorize and fund an overdose prevention center in Burlington. 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 legislation is expected to head back to the House and to the Governor’s desk next week.

In response to the Vermont Senate’s vote, Grey Gardner, Senior Policy Counsel for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the leading organization seeking to make overdose prevention centers available across the United States, released the following statement:

“Vermont legislators are once again showing extraordinary leadership in advancing health-based solutions to a health crisis. 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. 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.”

Gardner continued: “Authorizing and supporting overdose prevention centers is especially urgent in a state like Vermont where most people who are losing their lives to a fatal drug overdose are dying alone. Given the highly unpredictable, increasingly potent drug supply, it’s critical that we authorize and expand overdose prevention centers to prevent Vermonters from using and potentially dying alone. OPCs bring drug use out of the shadows and into safe spaces where community members can get connected to care, including treatment and other life-sustaining resources like housing support and food. We commend the Vermont legislators who embraced the mountain of evidence that shows overdose prevention centers save lives, improve health outcomes and benefit communities. And we urge the Governor to sign this legislation and act with the urgency that the scale of this crisis demands.”

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 last month. Supporters include ACLU of Vermont, AIDS Project of Southern Vermont, Bennington Planned Parenthood, Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless, End Homelessness Vermont, National Harm Reduction Coalition, Turning Point Center of Bennington, Vermont Businesses Social Responsibility (VBSR), Vermont CARES, Vermont Interfaith Action, Vermont Legal Aid, Vermont Network, Vermont Recovery Advocacy, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, and Voices for Vermont’s Children.

The vote comes three years after Rhode Island voted to authorize overdose prevention centers and months after 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 open and operate Rhode Island’s first overdose prevention center. The Providence site is expected to open in summer 2024. And the vote comes just over two years after OnPoint NYC opened two 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.

The progress being made in Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, and elsewhere across the country clearly 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.


More Information:

Letters of support for Vermont OPCs

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 drugpolicy.org.


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