Morning Read: NY Times Takes a Look at Rutland's Opiate Efforts | Off Message

Morning Read: NY Times Takes a Look at Rutland's Opiate Efforts

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The national media just can't seem to get enough of the Vermont opiate addiction story. The latest installment comes from the New York Times, which today explored a topic Seven Days tackled earlier this month — Rutland's efforts to address its addiction problems and resulting neighborhood decline.

The Times' front page piece treads similar ground, exploring problems in multi-family units in the troubled Northwest section of the city and a data-driven collaboration between government agencies, non-profits, neighborhood groups and police.

"Since acknowledging the problem, the police have come to view addiction as a disease, not just a law enforcement issue, and have joined with social service providers to take a more data-driven, coordinated approach to homes with multiple problems," the Times reports. "City agencies and residents have joined forces to revitalize their neighborhoods and eliminate blight."
The story also gave credit to a couple of Rutland-based volunteers, Korrine Rodrigue, a crime researcher from the University of Miami who is helping the Rutland Police Department, and Joe Kraus, a former executive at Central Vermont Public Service who is running the local volunteer effort. 

And the Times talked to Police Chief Jim Baker, who had his department focus on what he calls the "infrastructure" in Rutland that allows dealers to come into the city and do business. 

“If you’re a guy from New York, you can come here with 500 bags of heroin, sell it and sleep with three different women before you go home the next day,” said Chief Baker, according to the Times. Many of the women, he said, receive rent subsidies and food stamps and use heroin themselves. “The entire infrastructure is here for these guys to function, make quick money and leave,” he said.

Since Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire state of the state speech in January to what he called a "rising tide" of opiate addiction and related problems, the governor and Vermont law enforcement officials have been featured in just about every major media outlet in the country — and beyond. While reporting in Rutland's Northwest neighborhoods a few weeks ago, Seven Days bumped into a crew from Al-Jazeera.

Baker, whose previous gig was head of the Vermont State Police, told us he had received more media calls about the opiate issue than he did during the 2008 investigation into the gruesome murder of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett, which triggered Vermont's first Amber Alert and was featured on national nightly news.


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