by Joshua Jerome
By now, if you’re not aware of the opiate problem in Vermont, you may have been living under a rock for the last couple of years. The state of Vermont treated 2,258 people in 2014 for heroin use; an increase from 623 in 2010. Governor Peter Shumlin’s state of the state address in 2014 focused on this problem and laid the groundwork for allocating resources for addiction treatment and recovery. Fortunately for Vermont, the Vermont Recovery Network, a non-profit organization with centers around the state, was fully established and is an integral part in turning the tide of addiction.
The Vermont Recovery Network is comprised of 12 recovery centers and the Turning Point Center of Central Vermont, located in Barre, is part of this network. All of the Turning Point centers provide space for various 12-step meetings and other peer-to-peer recovery supports such as alcoholics anonymous, but they are not affiliated with these groups. Each center is committed to providing a respectful and supportive environment that is welcoming to those who are interested in all stages of recovery, whether from alcohol, pain medication or illegal substances.
Vermont’s Recovery Centers and the Vermont Recovery Network was born out of The Turning Point Club in White River Junction, an alcoholics anonymous club that looked to become more inclusive to all those on the road to recovery. As the club’s participants began to increase and more opportunities became available for peer-to-peer engagement during the recovery process, the more attention the club received for their successes in helping people in recovery maintain a life without substance abuse. In 2001, the state legislature began allocating seed money to help fund 12 recovery centers across Vermont to adopt this new peer-based recovery network.
Turning Point Center of Central Vermont has been operating since 2003 and has the mission to help people find, maintain and enhance their substance abuse recovery by providing peer-based recovery supports to individuals and families; conducting educational programs that aid in building and enriching a healthy life; and maintaining a safe haven for sober recreation and social activities. At any given day there could be up to 30 guests at the Barre facility, which operates 50 hours a week, Monday through Saturday. The center functions on a shoestring budget with part time dedicated staff and volunteers who are passionate about helping participants maintain recovery.
A recent study of 565 recovery center participants showed that recovery centers make a significant impact in the fight against addiction. The study was a longitudinal study and utilized self-reporting techniques, but showed there was a significant increase in sobriety with 67 percent maintaining sobriety with an additional 14 percent reaching sobriety by the completion of the study. Eighteen percent of participants increased their employment during their time at Turning Point and out of those participating in the study that had criminal backgrounds, 46 percent did not recidivate. Other notable findings include a 91 percent increase of overall wellness and improved health since coming to a recovery center and 71 percent reported improved family relationships.
Addiction whether it’s alcohol, opioids or other substances can wreak havoc within families and devastate whole communities. It affects people from all levels of the socioeconomic ladder and is not going to be beaten overnight. The Turning Point Center of Central Vermont and the rest of the recovery network’s centers around the state have shown that peer-based recovery makes a difference in this battle and I’m grateful for their work.
The writer is executive director of The Barre Partnership.