Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.
The governor is keenly aware of the opioid crisis which is inflicting extensive harm on Vermont’s citizens and communities. His Opioid Coordination Council has addressed key areas for effective responses, and Vermont is nationally recognized for its leadership in treatment and recovery initiatives.
The Vermont GOP must build on this important progress. Prevention must be the first and foremost weapon in this battle. We must utilize every tool at our disposal to stop the problem before it starts. We must intercept and prevent the movement of drugs and those who would deal them in our state.
I have heard it suggested that drug dealers know people are going to die when they sell their product, and such being the case, they should be charged with attempted murder, or if someone dies, murder. I do not know if that is legally possible to do that, but the suggestion makes one thing clear: We must do all we can to make the life of the drug dealer difficult. The penalties they suffer should be sure, swift and severe so they will decide as a matter of business to not bring their wares to Vermont. Too many dealers are offered plea-reducing deals that allow them to walk free and sell again. Until it becomes unprofitable for them, the cycle will continue.
A simple proverb that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” clearly teaches it is easier to prevent something from happening in the first place than to fix it after the fact. We vaccinate children to prevent devastating childhood disease. We must vaccinate our community against drug dealers in order to protect our most vulnerable, our children, from those who would addict them for profit. We must act wisely and decisively to prevent our children from becoming the addicts that the drug dealers need to grow their business.
For those that we fail to save by preventing their addiction in the first place, we must compassionately innovate the most effective treatment and recovery policies possible. Treatment options, including medically assisted treatments (MAP) must also have an end goal of recovery free from these on-going medical interventions. And while we must have compassion on those who become addicted, even if caused by their own choice as earlier stated, we must never relent in our fight to end the dealing of drugs by those whose only motive is profit, no matter the costs to others — too often that cost being the loss of their life.
The governor many times has said we must protect the most vulnerable among us. That should be our goal: to keep drugs off our streets, away from children, and do what we can to enable law enforcement to do just that. Whatever we do, we should do no harm, and that means we must do everything we can as leaders to prevent it in the first place and not do anything further that would add to the damage already done.