Leahy Announces $12 Million In Federal COVID Relief To Bolster VT’s Substance Use Treatment And Prevention Response -- News Backgrounder ALSO BELOW --

MONTPELIER, Vt. (THURSDAY, May 6, 2021) – At a State House press conference Thursday, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that Vermont will receive $12 million in COVID relief funds that will help communities strengthen their responses to substance use disorders and address new challenges brought on by the pandemic. Leahy was joined by Governor Phil Scott, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, and Vermont’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, for the announcement.

“This funding could not come at a more critical time. The isolation and financial hardships brought on by COVID are challenging enough for anyone, but think for a moment about what this has meant for people in treatment and recovery for Substance Use Disorder, particularly those living in our most rural communities,” Leahy said.

The funding includes a two-year, $6 million flexible block grant to the Vermont Health Department under the COVID Supplemental Appropriations bill passed last December, and a similar grant that will be coming from the American Rescue Plan Act that passed in March. The money will be administered through Vermont’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs to support prevention, treatment and recovery programs in communities around the state. 

“Even throughout the last year, Vermont never lost sight of the issues facing Vermonters with Substance Use Disorder,” said Governor Scott. “The pandemic presented particular barriers for those individuals, challenging us to continue to offer services and supports while they were isolated from their friends, families and communities. This block grant money will allow Vermont to continue our work and to expand our efforts in education, outreach, direct prevention, treatment, and in recovery services.”

Leahy was also joined by Eva Zaret, coordinator of the Central Vermont Prevention Coalition, and Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete, who detailed how the coalition’s earlier work in developing a community-wide response to substance use disorders helped address the unique challenges brought on by COVID.  Started in 2015, the Coalition received a three-year, $1 million federal Rural Communities Opioid Response grant last year from the program Leahy established in 2018 to improve access to rural treatment and services for those with substance use disorders.   

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Contact: David Carle (Leahy): david_carle@leahy.senate.gov   ph: 301-872-0665


At-A-Glance News Backgrounder

Senator Leahy’s Ongoing Support
For Vermont’s Opioid Response Programs

Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has long been a leader in making historic investments in the nation’s fight against the opioid epidemic. Since he first held a Senate Judiciary Committee field hearing in Vermont in 2008 to address the emerging heroin threat, Leahy recognized that a law enforcement response alone was not the answer and that heroin, along with the overprescribing of opioids, were not just urban problems.

“Prevention, education, treatment and recovery must go hand-in-hand with the important efforts of law enforcement,” Leahy has repeatedly said. For more than a decade, that approach has guided Leahy in his commitment to increase federal funding so that even the most rural Vermont communities could offer a comprehensive response, assuring that Vermonters in need of treatment and support for Substance Use Disorder would not need to drive hours to get it.

What follows is an overview of some of the funding Leahy has helped to secure for Vermont in recent years (in addition to the $12 million in COVID relief funds announced Thursday):