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Action Taken by Governor Phil Scott on Legislation - May 25, 2023

May 25, 2023

Montpelier, Vt. - Governor Phil Scott announced action on the following bills, passed by the General Assembly.

On May 25, Governor Scott signed bills of the following titles:

  • H.53, An act relating to driver’s license suspensions
  • H.110, An act relating to extending the sunset under 30 V.S.A. § 248a
  • H.161, An act relating to issuance of burning permits
  • H.222, An act relating to reducing overdoses
  • H.495, An act relating to the approval of the amendment to the charter of the Town of Middlebury
  • H.506, An act relating to approval of amendments to the election boundary provisions of the charter of the City of Burlington
  • H.507, An act relating to approval of amendments to the polling place provisions of the charter of the City of Burlington

When signing H.222, Governor Scott issued the following statement:

“As we continue to lose far too many Vermonters – mothers, fathers, children, siblings and friends – to the crisis of opioid addiction, we know we must continue to do more,” said Governor Scott. “We must keep building on what we know works and address barriers to treatment, housing, and other supports, with a focus on saving lives. I appreciate the legislature for their collaboration with my team, and their work to bring this bill across the finish line.”

Background on H.222

This legislation will bolster the state’s comprehensive approach to reduce the rates of overdose deaths, enhancing current successful strategies, creating critical flexibilities to access treatment, reducing stigma for individuals struggling with substance use disorder, and working to reach people wherever they may be to offer treatment.

The initiatives in H.222 represent the first to be funded by Opioid Settlement Abatement Funds, which were secured through litigation that held pharmaceutical distributors responsible for supplying addictive opioids. Vermont is expected to receive funds through this settlement for close to 18 years. Funding recommendations were made by the Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee, representing state staff, legislators, community providers, municipalities, and individuals with lived experience. These recommendations were supported by Governor Scott and the Legislature.

The Settlement Advisory Committee recommended a focus expanding access, especially for vulnerable Vermonters, noting “…75% of opioid overdose deaths occur in people who have no prior connection with the treatment system. We are obligated to focus on strategies to help find those vulnerable people and to focus on reducing any barriers to accessing care and treatment that may have impacted some of them.”

Specifically, H.222:

  • makes the life-saving opioid antagonist Narcan more available and eliminates potential barriers to the administration of Narcan;
  • facilitates access to treatment with buprenorphine and other Substance Use Disorder medications;
  • ensures access to telehealth options for treatment;
  • codifies the decriminalization of personal amounts of un-prescribed buprenorphine, an identified bridge into treatment and services; and
  • facilitates the disposal of unused needles and syringes through an expansion of the unused prescription drug disposal program.

As the Administration is focused on creating more permanent housing options and addressing challenges, such as substance misuse, that contribute to homelessness, H.222 includes a critical provision to address local zoning. This change would allow substance recovery residences of up to 8-people to be treated as a permitted single family residential use of property, an important step to increase access to residential recovery options.

“The passage of H.222 marks another important step as Vermont seeks to overcome the opioid crisis,” said Dr. Mark Levine, commissioner of the Department of Health. “Through a variety of harm reduction measures and program funding, H.222 provides us with vital tools we will use to meet our most critical objectives – to save lives and provide people with the treatment they need to succeed in their recovery.

I have been inspired by the collaborative work between legislators, the Governor, the Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee, and community partners, as Vermont strives to bend the opioid curve in favor of public health and lives saved, with evidence-based, bold, and innovative actions”

Background on Opioid Settlement Abatement Funds

Funding from the Opioid Settlement Abatement Funds is designed to continue to enhance and expand upon successful strategies and to be nimble and responsive in order to identify individuals in need and motivate them to engage in treatment, while keeping themselves safe and alive through their use. In this first year of funding, we will be able to:

  • expand treatment sites for MAT treatment in several underserved areas of the state;
  • fund outreach staff through the provider network to identify and work with individuals with substance use disorder in non-traditional settings and facilitate connections with peer networks;
  • support several new and innovative, promising practices to motivate and maintain individuals in treatment, and enhance their safety while in active addiction; and
  • allocate funding to current harm reduction strategies like fentanyl test strips and xylazine test strips when those come to market.

To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2023 legislative session, click here.