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Lawmakers agreed on harm reduction center legislation, but Gov. Scott plans to veto

The gold dome of the Montpelier statehouse peaks out above trees on a bright day.
Sophie Stephens
Vermont Public
State representatives agreed on legislation that would create a harm reduction center, or safe injection site, in Burlington — but Gov. Scott says he'll veto it.

Gov. Phil Scott says he plans to veto legislation creating a pilot harm reduction center — also known as a safe injection site — in Burlington.

That's where individuals can use illegal drugs under medical supervision, and with access to overdose-reversing medication. Backers of the plan say it's an effective way to save lives.

More from Vermont Public: 10 years ago, Gov. Peter Shumlin highlighted the opioid crisis. Has Vermont made any progress?

But Scott said at his weekly press conference that he thinks the $1 million allocated to stand up the center should instead go toward expanding existing treatment programs.

"I just think we should go with the strategy that we know works that will help in the short run as well," Scott said. "So that one is something that I am opposed to, we'll see if they have the votes. I'm sure I'll end up vetoing that."

Earlier this year, Gov. Scott's top public health appointee, Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine, said that Vermont would benefit from the creation of the facilities as one part of a "multi-pronged strategy."

More from Vermont Public: Vermont’s health commissioner says he supports overdose prevention center recommendation

The legislation passed the Vermont House on Tuesday. House human services committee chair Rep. Theresa Wood said Vermont has recorded over 1,500 opioid related deaths in the past decade — and lawmakers need to act.

"The vast majority of them did not have a bystander present," Wood said. "This is a shocking loss of lives, lives that were our friends, our family members, our community members and so many Vermonters, all of whom deserve a chance to live and heal."

Lawmakers might have the numbers to override a veto, based on earlier vote tallies for the bill.

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Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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