#3 “It’s not just the random story anymore”

This week I have interviewed three people on the topic of Opioids and how they affect children: Amy Sayre, the Shelburne Community School LEAD counselor who talks with students and educates us about drug and alcohol abuse, my friend Charlotte, and my mom Becky who are both interested in this topic.

The first person that I interviewed this week was Amy.  She had a lot to say about the Opioid epidemic in Vermont; because she is a drug and alcohol abuse counselor at our school she gets educated on this topic multiple times a year.

When I asked Amy what she thought about the scale of the problem in Vermont, she quickly jumped to the fact that “Vermont has one of the highest rates of opioid addiction in 18-25 year olds in the country”. She definitely thinks that it is a big problem in Vermont. There are some stories she shared that are really sad and involve kids.  It was clear to me that there is a need for change and help in our communities.

Amy also mentioned that even though Vermont has one of the highest rates of addiction, we are also considered one of the leading states in education of substance abuse. In fact in 2014 she said “Governor declared it a full-blown crisis”, so I think that it is great our state is recognizing this large problem. I still think that we can do more to help the problem then we are currently.  Like Amy said, “it’s not just a random story anymore” stories are becoming more common in Vermont and the country. It is definitely time we start taking even more action to stop it.

After the first interview I definitely learned a lot about how serious and large the opioid epidemic is. Before the interview I knew it was a big problem, but after it made me want to do it more. When she was talking about a story that happened in Burlington it really showed me how close it is to wear I live. I thought that it was a lot further away then a few towns. I want that to change and I hope there is things that I can do that can positively impact it.

Coming into my second interview I was excited to see what my friend (who is my age) thought about this topic. So far I had only really heard from adults about this topic and I wanted to see what her perspective was about the topic. One of the reasons why I interviewed her was because she mentioned to me that she would be interested in looking into the topic as well.

When Charlotte and I spoke on the phone, she agreed with Amy, that it is a large problem in Vermont and needs to be solved. She talked a lot about how she feels like it is an “issue that is easily overlooked” and she feels like she is not educated enough about it. Even though we are one of the worst in the country, we don’t hear about it enough. This was very different then what Amy was saying, because it is Amy’s job to be educated on that.

Though the kids in the community feel like they are not getting enough education. Charlotte also was saying how she thought we could help change the problem by educating more and more people about the problem. One idea she had was “educate more people about spotting, and helping people who have overdosed”. I agree with her and think that would be very beneficial if we could educate more people about it.

When we started talking about how it would affect children she said that she thought that it could be a huge impact on the children. Especially the younger the children are (if their parents are addicted or using opioids) that the longer and bigger scar it would leave on their life. Charlotte wants Vermont to “lead in the solution for the problem”.

After her interview, I thought about all the children in Vermont who come from families that are effected by opioid addition and how it changed their life. It really opened my mind about how many kids could be affected that I don’t know about. Children are likely to be carrying scary memories around with them and that could be impacting their lives. I would be really interested in hearing them, and helping them through that.

My last interview just deepened my curiosity and inspiration about the possible change. My mom; Becky works at UVM Medical Center and has seen some of the patients go into the hospital for help. She added on to what Charlotte and Amy were saying about how large the problem was in Vermont. She has a little different idea than Charlotte about changing it. She thinks we should “Stop it at the root. Doctors should be more careful about how much, and how long they prescribe opioids for”.

Another thing that Becky mentioned was that not only did she think doctors might be the cause for some of the addictions she also thought the economy might play a role in it.   She was saying that many addicts and dealers may feel hopeless or need a way to make money they will use it or sell it. So, if someone needs to stop the pain of depression from their economic state they might start taking drugs. Or if they need more money so they resort to selling the drugs. That was something I thought about for the first time.

The fact that people are selling opioids to people in Vermont sparked another question for me research. Is the problem that there is too many people selling it in Vermont, therefore making it easier to access in Vermont? Or is it because of the economics that people feel like they need to use it to feel better?

My mom also brought up another piece of information that relates to the  children of family’s who are involved with the drug. She mentioned “the department of children services have a record high of children who are in foster care right now”. That just shows how much opioid addiction could impact a child and how our state feels no one should live with a parent who is addicted. I also asked her if she thought I could pursue this topic easily. She said that she thinks that there is an abundance of people I could talk to including the department of child services and I think that is a great idea and can’t wait to talk to more people.

Overall, I think a lot of people want change in this area and have ideas of change. All of the people I talked to want more education about this topic and think that there is a lot of room for growth in our community. I think after these interviews, I have decided I will stick with this topic. There is so much opportunity to make a positive change, and help people who are in need of help. I am so excited to dig deeper into this topic!

Sayre, Amy. “Amy Sayre Opioids in Vermont #1.” Personal interview. 21 Sept. 2016.

V, Charlotte. “Charlotte V. Opioids in Vermont #2.” Telephone interview. 24 Sept. 2016.
Kapsalis, Rebecca. “Becky Kapsalis Opioids in Vermont #3.” Personal interview. 25 Sept. 2016.
Petra Kapsalis

6 Responses to “#3 “It’s not just the random story anymore”

  • Kate Carroll
    4 years ago

    Hi Petra,

    Having read your comment “All of the people I talked to want more education about this topic,” I am curious to know if your school requires a health class, and if yes, how is the topic of addiction in Vermont addressed? As one avenue of research it might be interesting to compare and contrast both middle school and high school curricula across the state by asking other WTS participants about their educational access to your topic.

    Your decision to interview two adults who could speak from their different work perspectives (school and hospital) also opens up possible areas of study (e.g. prevention and/or treatment). And a thread I noticed across the interviewees was the importance of awareness; as Amy Sayre noted in her interview, awareness was raised in the state and nation when Governor highlighted the rise of opioid addiction in his 2014 state of the state address. Also, I remember in your writing submission on your WTS application, you launched your essay about publicly displaying the Confederate Flag by citing the church shooting in 2015, so I thought you might want to read Shumlin’s address in full as it definitely sparked conversation about the crisis.
    http://governor.vermont.gov/press-release/gov-shumlins-2014-state-state-address

    The Governor was both commended and criticized for raising this awareness especially after Rolling Stone magazine covered it with a very controversial opening image:
    http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-new-face-of-heroin-20140403

    One more media source regarding your topic is the documentary, The Hungry Heart, directed by Bess O’Brien. Anticipating the second part of the WTS where you and a team will create a media product of some type that can effect change, you might want to view the film for information as well as a sample of digital story-telling.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3992380/

    Finally regarding your mom’s comment “the department of children services have a record high of children who are in foster care right now,” I thought you might also want to read about what Vermont’s DCF currently has in place to support pregnant women with opioid use disorders and how they have shared this work with a national organization
    http://dcf.vermont.gov/press-releases/CHARM

    Inside the press release is link to a national publication that includes a case study that:
    “ . . .tells the story of the Children and Recovering Mothers collaborative of Chittenden County, known as CHARM. This Vermont initiative was included in the guide as a model of a community-based, collaborative and comprehensive approach to caring for families affected by opioid use.”

    Petra, I can’t wait to read your next blog post! Don’t hesitate to ask any questions about any of my comments that are not clear.

    Best wishes,
    Kate Carroll

    • Mrs. Caroll,
      Thank you so much for your reasons I really appreciate all of the information that you gave me. I Looked at the cites and even used the heading of the rolling stones magazine as my featured image. I hope that is ok. I found the first link that you sent me very helpful I liked seeing the progress Vermont is making. I have never really heard about all of the treatment programs until now. I also really liked reading about how Vermont DCF if working with pregnant mothers. I again, had never heard of it before but I think it is a great program.
      As far as health class in school, I do have one but we do not learn to much about the opioid epidemic. Last year we did learn a little about legalizing marijuana. I agree I think it would be interesting to see what different age groups are learning about. The main reason why I got hooked on this topic was because of the news, and a NPR story. Though, I hope we start getting educated on this topic more.
      Sorry I did not respond to you earlier, and thank you again for the thoughtful reasons,
      Petra

  • Hi Petra,

    Just one wanted to share one article that came out yesterday in our local paper, The Addison Independent, that looks at a funding for prevention of opioid use by Addison teens:

    “MIDDLEBURY — A new grant will direct more than $600,000 to Addison County over the next five years for programs aimed at preventing local teens and young adults from abusing alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs.

    After years of fighting the opiate epidemic in Vermont at the point where people need help cleaning up, one local leader charged with spending the new grant money is happy to open a new front in the battle.

    “Let’s really (attack) the root causes,” said Kate McGowan, executive director of the United Way of Addison County.”

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ipo_ah9qZj5wJ1vpk2FT0DwKXDg3QsTkepO4J2UMOlA/edit?usp=sharing

  • Petra,
    I’m glad you’re getting excited about this topic!! I agree with Ms. Carroll that it would be interesting to look into education about the topic in schools. My high school requires health class, but many people don’t take it until at least sophomore year, and some take it online, so we all get different information at different times. I learned a little bit about opioids in middle school health class, but overall I know very little even though it’s a huge issue in our state, which is a huge issue in itself. Like Ms. Carroll said, you could go into prevention and/or treatment; I would add that education is a whole separate path you can follow! You have lots of options and I’m looking forward to seeing where you take this. Like I said, I don’t know much about the topic, but don’t hesitate to ask if you do want to talk to me more about it.
    Greta

    • Greta,
      I know, I feel like the Opioid Crisis is a very large overarching topic and feel like I can go different places with it. I am hoping that in our retreat I will be able to narrow it down to a more specific idea based on what other people are doing. I totally agree with you about how us not learning about this huge problem in our state is a problem in itself. I feel like if it is that big of a problem we should be more educated about it. I would also be interested in maybe finding out about how much the education actually helps.
      Thank you for your insightful comment,
      Petra

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