Leahy Guides Creation Of National Centers To Address Rural Addiction Through The Senate Appropriations Committee

Drawing on the groundbreaking work being done at the University of Vermont and the UVM Medical Center to address opioid addiction in rural America, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday guided new funding through the Senate Appropriations Committee to establish three “Rural Centers of Excellence on Substance Use Disorders” around the country.

Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said:  “Rural communities, like those across Vermont, have been at the front lines of the opioid epidemic.  These are communities that face unique challenges in confronting this crisis.  And Vermont, like so many times before, is leading the country in addressing this crisis.  It is my hope that these centers will help us take what we have learned in Vermont and apply those lessons to rural communities around the country.  Because of its groundbreaking work, UVM would be a competitive and excellent candidate to host one of these new centers.”

Leahy fought to include $20 million in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Senate Appropriations Bill to establish three centers dedicated to the unique needs of rural communities in addressing the opioid crisis.  With unique challenges like access to treatment and prevention centers, rural communities have been devastated by the opioid epidemic with greater rates of lethal overdoses than their urban counterparts. 

Vermont has led the nation in confronting this crisis in rural America with new and innovative approaches like the hub-and-spoke model, which takes a system-wide approach to addressing addiction.  The University of Vermont has been a leading contributor to much of this pioneering work across the state and has taken their findings to other rural communities across the country that seek innovative, successful ways to deploy new federal resources provided to combat the opioid epidemic. 

Leahy drew on this innovative and collaborative approach in fighting for funding for the centers.  Based at academic universities in states where more than 60 percent of the population lives in rural communities, the centers would focus on researching science-based, community approaches to the opioid crisis and implementing those approaches around the country by providing scientific and technical assistance. 

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