SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – Three Vermont community mental health agencies announced that they are joining forces in a suit against the opioid drug industry. The three state-designated nonprofit agencies include Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, in southeastern Vermont; Counseling Services of Addison County, Inc. in Middlebury; and Northeast Kingdom Human Services in northeastern Vermont. Each of these community mental health agencies have incurred significant losses due to the impact of the opioid crisis. Not only have these agencies seen an increase in unreimbursed addiction costs, but they’ve also experienced increased pressures from providing these critical services.
According to HCRS CEO George Karabakakis, Ph.D., “The opioid crisis has devastated our communities. In over 50 years of providing services, we have not seen the likes of this crisis before, which is impacting not only the individuals who become addicted to these powerful drugs, but entire families and our community. The manufacturers and distributors of opioids have misled health care professionals and the public regarding the addictive nature of these drugs. We feel it’s time for these companies to be held accountable.”
Rachel Lee Cummings, CEO of CSAC agrees. “Like all counties in Vermont, Addison County is struggling under the weight of the opioid epidemic. Our county is overwhelmed with opioids, and we have seen an increase in people who need treatment. As a result, we are challenged to support clients and families because of the large financial losses in our substance use and other programs. We believe it is time to hold manufacturers, distributors, and retailers who contributed to this epidemic accountable for the cost of treatment and services.”
Tomasz Jankowski, CEO of NHKS, said, “NKHS is recognizing the opioid epidemic that has surrounded us for a long, long time. This epidemic is not subsiding. We want to ensure that we hold the manufacturers and the distributors accountable for the decisions that they have made that have led to the outburst of this epidemic.”
In Windham County, a consortium of community organizations has undertaken a yearlong planning effort on how to address the opioid crisis in their community. The group is now focused on implementing their action steps based on their findings.