Windham County had the highest number of opioid-related deaths in the state last year: 24 Vermonters died. That's a huge increase from 2013 when three people died there. In 2018, the Brattleboro Police Department responded to 102 overdoses, 11 were fatal. A new initiative called Project CARE (Community Approach to Recovery and Engagement) sends teams of recovery coaches and police officers to the streets for weekly outreach sessions. We joined a group that included Lt. Adam Petlock of the Brattleboro Police Department and Ella Thorne-Thomsen, a recovery coach from Turning Point of Windham County, walking the streets and talking to people suffering from substance use about recovery resources.
Ella has been in recovery for six years from a heroin addiction, and she has been a recovery coach and a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) guide for almost three years. Strolling downtown with her feels like an outing with a celebrity: She knows everyone and has built relationships with many of the locals. We joined Ella as she celebrated one young man's sobriety; checked in with a young woman about a recent dentist visit; and provided free Narcan — which would reverse an overdose — to a man called Booger. Ella always invites the people she meets to visit Turning Point, which she promises has friends, food and a couch. We sat down with Ella to talk about her road to recovery and why she is so passionate about helping others and paying it forward.
Shooting date: 5/30/19
Music: Kevin MacLeod, "Perspectives" & "Music for Manatees"