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The Fix: More Vermonters sought help for addiction during pandemic

New data shows overdose deaths in America hit a record high last year and they were up in Vermont, too.

In Vermont, opioid deaths increased by 38% last year, rising to 157 in 2020 from 114 in 2019.

The state also estimates that between 15,000 and 20,000 Vermonters with opioid use disorder need treatment but as of June, only 9,300 are getting it.

Our Olivia Lyons spoke with leaders at an addiction treatment center in Rutland to find out whether COVID had an effect on their services.

At West Ridge Center, people suffering from addiction receive a full physical and psychosocial exam. Some receive medication-assisted treatment, like methadone or buprenorphine.
What Vermonters need to know about the Delta variant

The Delta variant now causes about a third of new Covid-19 cases in New England. Researchers estimate it is twice as transmissible as the original coronavirus, but are uncertain whether it makes people sicker than other Covid-19 strains.

To date, only five Delta variant cases have been identified in Vermont, which public health experts credit to the state’s high vaccination rate. 

“The data shows that all three vaccines work against the variants circulating in the U.S., so if you want to protect yourself against Covid and its variants, the best way to do that is to get vaccinated,” Dr. Mark Levine, the state health commissioner, told Vermonters at a press conference Tuesday.
Welch urges HHS Secretary Becerra to keep patients connected to telehealth
Vermont Business Magazine

Representative Peter Welch (D-Vermont) and a group of bipartisan Energy and Commerce members - Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), Rep. Michael C Burgess (R-TX) - sent a letter Monday to Secretary Xavier Becerra urging the Department of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to develop a comprehensive telehealth strategy for Medicare beneficiaries to continue accessing critical virtual care services following the expiration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE).

Congressman Welch is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee which has broad jurisdiction over telehealth. Welch is also a co-chair of the Congressional Telehealth Caucus.
Town halls help residents navigate health insurance to take advantage of Biden’s American Rescue Plan dollars

The passage of the American Rescue Plan brings more than $25 million in federal money to Vermonters. On Wednesday, Vermont Health Access officials explained how folks who buy health plans through the state’s health insurance marketplace could take advantage of it.

“This means a lot more financial help for a lot more people,” Seán Sheehan, senior policy and implementation analyst for the Department of Vermont Health Access, said in the first of six scheduled virtual town hall meetings. 
Push to train more Vermont nurses to help victims of sexual, domestic violence

Victims of sexual or domestic violence may need more specialized care-- that’s the word from victims advocates. And Vermont has a special group of nurses trained to provide it.

They’re part of the SANE nursing program. SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, better know as forensic nurses. Every emergency department in the state has at least one on-call but program coordinators and advocates are hoping to expand the program.

Raenetta Liberty is the clinical coordinator for the Vermont Forensic Nursing Program. For the past 10 years, she’s helped survivors of sexual assault and partner violence.

“It’s not always necessary or comforting for a patient to walk into an emergency department and tell the triage nurse, ‘I was sexually assaulted,’” Liberty said.
Despite New COVID Variants, CDC Says You Don't Need Any Booster Doses Right Now

As new coronavirus variants test the protections of the available vaccines, federal health officials say there's no need for booster doses right now.

"Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time," read a joint statement sent Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

The agencies added that people who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe illness and death, including from emerging variants such as the highly contagious delta variant that's now the dominant strain in the U.S. and in other countries.

The news comes shortly after Pfizer and BioNTech announced plans to seek FDA authorization for a booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine.
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