The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

January 15, 2014

Heroin and pill abuse stir a battle cry in Vermont

(Continued)

He also seeks tougher criminal penalties for drug traffickers and those who use violence during drug crimes. Shumlin, a Democrat, is proposing several million dollars in new spending to help contain the proposals. Shumlin is set to reveal a budget proposal Wednesday that could contain details on how to pay for his proposals.

While Republicans in the Vermont Legislature criticized the governor's speech for not focusing more on jobs and the economy, they agreed with the need to fight the drug threat.

Recovering addict Dustin Machia, 25, attended Shumlin's speech and was singled out by the governor as someone who quickly became addicted after being offered Oxycontin, a powerful opioid, in high school.

"It led me to places I didn't want to go, never thought I'd be," Machia said.

He soon became a $500-a-day addict who stole $20,000 worth of equipment from the family farm before his mother introduced him to a local physician who helped him. It took him more than a week to get into a rehabilitation program.

Machia, who lives in the community of Swanton, just a few miles from the Quebec border, managed to overcome his addiction with the help of family, friends and hard work. He said his experience came before heroin reared its head in Vermont and he also hopes the Legislature can find ways to get people the help they need when they ask for it.

"When people are ready, they have to go," Machia said in the governor's office after the speech. "Three weeks, a month, it's too late by then."

The demand for heroin is being quickly filled by out-of-state drug dealers or Vermonters who travel to cities in southern New England or beyond, where heroin can cost $5 to $10 per bag. A couple of years ago they were being sold in Vermont for $40, but now they fetch $15 to $20, said Maj. Glenn Hall, head of the Vermont State Police's criminal division.

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