The Role of Local Government in the Opioid Crisis: Lessons from Vermont


Thursday, March 29, 2018, 5:00pm to 6:30pm


Bell Hall (B-500)

Leaders across the country are seeking solutions to the deadliest overdose crisis in history. In Vermont, since the governor declared a state of emergency over opioids in 2014, waiting lists have steadily disappeared and the rate of overdose from opioids have dropped below the national average.

Former Vermont State Representative Kesha Ram (MC MPA 2018) will lead a panel discussion with three Vermont mayors across the political spectrum: recently retired Mayor Thom Lauzon of Barre, former Mayor Christopher Louras of Rutland, and Mayor Miro Weinberger of Burlington (HKS Class of 1998). They will highlight the role local government plays in combating opioid addiction and drug trafficking. Together, they have helped shape the Vermont political agenda, including advocating for increasing access to the data in the State’s prescription monitoring system, expanding medication assisted treatment options in prisons and emergency rooms, and reviewing treatment protocols.

Mayor Christopher Louras was elected to his first term as Mayor in 2007 and led the city of Rutland through what many called “Rutland’s Renaissance” until his defeat in 2017. Beginning in early 2013, while working seamlessly with Police Chief James Baker, he focused on guiding Project Vision, a nationally recognized innovative opiate response strategy that has successfully driven down crime and improved community quality of life. Employing a data-driven, harm-reduction approach, Project Vision serves as a model for a holistic, comprehensive community-based strategy that proved itself replicable in both small and large municipalities.

Mayor Thom Lauzon stepped down this month as Vermont's longest-serving mayor. With twelve years at the helm of the city of Barre, he has helped lead a transformation of a community ravaged by heroin and addiction. He has been known as a champion for downtown development, housing, and children's health, earning Barre five gold medals in the national Let's Move! campaign.

Mayor Miro Weinberger was elected Mayor of Burlington in 2012 and reelected in 2015. In his time in office, he has focused on fiscal stewardship, economic development, affordable housing, 21st century policing, climate action, and the opioid crisis. Under Miro’s leadership, the city of Burlington hired a first-ever Opioid Policy Coordinator to help in this effort, and, in 2016, began its CommunityStat initiative. CommunityStat brings together public health and safety professionals, social service and treatment providers, and other stakeholders working to address the opioid crisis in Burlington and Chittenden County for monthly meetings to collaborate and coordinate their efforts.

This is a student run event organized by the Center for Public Leadership’s Dubin Leadership Field Experience West Virginia Team and with support from the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at HKS.