RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) -- Vermont's heroin and opioid abuse problems received national attention Monday at U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy's Judiciary Committee field hearing in Rutland where witnesses discussed both reassuring signs of progress and areas in need of improvement.
Leahy began by applauding communities like Rutland for working on solutions for the drug crisis and also highlighted the unity in the state for fighting the tide of addiction.
"I've never seen in my lifetime, in this state, a law enforcement community more fully committed to prevention and treatment efforts as we have right now," Leahy said. "And I think we Vermonters ought to be proud of that."
Rutland police chief James Baker spoke about a local program called Project VISION that supporters say integrates public safety, prevention and treatment efforts.
VISION, or Viable Initiatives & Solutions through Involvement of Neighborhoods, coordinates efforts for crime, safety, substance abuse issues and neighborhoods and housing, Baker said. It uses data and connects police to city, state and county agencies so they can target certain hotspots of drug activity and better allocate resources.
But another witness, Mary Alice McKenzie, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Burlington, said there was more to be focused on, such as the interests of children.
McKenzie said that children in her region, as young as 13 years old, have been facing drug pedaling and solicitation.