Press Release

Senator Welch Convenes Roundtable in Springfield on the Shifting Overdose Crisis

Jan 29, 2024

SPRINGFIELD, VT – Today, Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) convened a roundtable at the Turning Point Recovery Center of Springfield with recovery peers, leaders from the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Corrections, health professionals, and the Springfield police for a productive discussion about community partnerships to address the overdose crisis in Vermont. The conversation focused on recovery centers as partners to community and state organizations and highlighted how peer recovery coaches are collaborating with police, health providers, and the Vermont Department of Corrections to ensure that more people, whether justice involved, incarcerated, or in the community, have the opportunity to see that recovery is effective. 

“Meeting the overdose crisis head-on means speaking with folks on the front lines to learn about how they are shifting their work to address the changing substance use landscape — for example recovery coaches meeting incarcerated individuals inside correctional facilities. I’ll take the insights from these conversations with me to Congress to continue supporting the remarkable work being done here in Vermont to help communities across the country address this changing crisis,” said Sen. Welch. 

At the roundtable, participants shared their experiences about the value of community partnership and integrated strategies to reduce overdoses. Senator Welch highlighted recent bipartisan support to address the overdose crisis, including his bill that was recently signed into law—the Testing, Rapid Analysis, and Narcotic Quality (TRANQ) Research Act. Other bills on the horizon that would help Vermonters include the bipartisan Overcoming Prevalent Inadequacies in Overdose Information Data Sets (OPIOIDS) Act, the Expanding Nationwide Access to Test Strips Act, the Reentry Act of 2023, and the Modernizing Opioid Treatment Access Act of 2023. 

The TRANQ Research Act, signed into law by President Biden in December 2023, takes steps to address the rise in the illicit use of Xylazine – a harmful animal tranquilizer also known by its street name Tranq – and other novel synthetic drugs that have become increasingly prevalent in Vermont and across the country. Provisions of the bill were shaped by insights from roundtable discussions hosted by Sen. Welch in 2023 on the growing number of overdoses in Vermont. 

Roundtable Participants included: 

  • Dr. Mark Levine, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Health
  • Michael Johnson, Executive Director, Turning Point Recovery Center of Springfield 
  • Tracie Hauck, Executive Director, Turning Point Recovery Center, Rutland
  • Nick Deml, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Corrections
  • Representative Alice Emmons, Turning Point Springfield Board Member and Chair of the Vermont House Committee on Corrections and Institutions
  • Representative Eric Maguire, Rutland Turning Point Center Board Chair, Rutland Vermont
  • Dr. Richard Marasa, Emergency Department Medical Director, Mt. Ascutney Hospital
  • Jeff Burnham, Chief of Police, Springfield
  • Lewis Nielson, Peer Recovery Coach 
  • John Hoyt, Peer Recovery Coach 

View photos from the event below.