BURLINGTON – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) announced Monday Vermont is set to receive $4 million through the State Opioid Response Grants program to help fight Vermont’s opioid epidemic.

In 2017, Vermont saw opioid-related deaths increase by 5 percent to a total of 101. Fentanyl deaths spiked by 30 percent and, according to the Vermont Department of Health, fentanyl was involved in two-thirds of all opioid-related fatalities.  In the same year, Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose, was distributed to 2,336 people statewide and administered 99 times by EMS, according to state data.

“None of us are immune to the effects of the opioid epidemic. It doesn’t matter if you live in New York City or rural Vermont,” said Sanders, who serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

“Solving the opioid epidemic is not a simple thing. We must make sure people have access to treatment, so they can get help where and when they need it,” Sanders said. “It means taking a hard look at the issues in our society that are causing so many people to turn to drugs in the first place, so that we can prevent others from becoming addicted.  This funding will be an important tool in this fight.”

Welch said the opioid epidemic is ravaging communities in Vermont and nationwide.

“Our first responders, local law enforcement, health care providers, treatment facilities and service organizations are on the front lines of this public health emergency,” he said. “But they can’t do it alone. This additional funding will provide them the resources they need to continue fighting this crisis head on.”

The State Opioid Response Grants program aims to address the opioid crisis by increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, reducing unmet treatment need and reducing opioid overdose related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment and recovery activities for opioid use disorder, which includes prescription opioids, heroin, illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.

In all, $930 million through 59 grants is being distributed throughout the United States, a press release said.