Vermont State Representative Nader Hashim
State Representative Nader Hashim's office submitted these responses to the American Opioid Podcast on 6/25/2019 11:47:36 AM.
What district of Vermont do you represent?
District Windham 4.
Briefly, how would you describe the opioid crisis in your state?
Vermont has been hit particularly hard, especially in Windham County. Outside of Chittenden County, it is difficult for the more rural areas to develop the means to rehabilitate individuals struggling with opioid addiction.
What are the two or three most significant bills that have been introduced in your chamber to help alleviate the opioid crisis in your state?
H.162: An act relating to decriminalizing buprenorphine.
S.146: An act relating to substance misuse disorder.
What was your involvement, if any, in those bills (e.g., introduction, advocacy, vote pledge)?
I co-sponsored H.162 along with Rep. Colburn of Burlington. We both feel that harm reduction is an essential part of addressing the opioid issue in Vermont. I often answered questions from other legislators who were curious or concerned about the ramifications of decriminalizing misdemeanor amounts of buprenorphine possession.
Have any of the bills passed? If not, why?
H.162 is still in committee. I do not know why it has not been voted out of committee yet; I know a lot of advocacy has been performed relating to this bill and many individuals have made their voices heard to the entire committee.
S.146 has passed into law with Governor Scott's signature.
What was the most memorable experience you had while learning about the opioid crisis in your state?
As a former state trooper, I was often told that even touching fentanyl can lead to an overdose. It was something I genuinely believed and also feared during my time on the road. After entering the legislature, I learned from health professionals that that's simply not true, and is often used as a way to incite fear and stigmatization of individuals who struggle with opioid use disorder.
The underlying lesson from that experience was learning that we must always approach topics with an open mind, as well as considering the possibility that you just might have incorrect information stored in your head.
If you had a magic wand that allowed you to pass any legislation you wanted in order to help alleviate the opioid crisis in your state, what would that legislation look like?
My magic wand would create a drug treatment docket in each county. I supported the creation of one in Windham County, although it has not fully taken shape yet. This is one of the approaches that are necessary to shift the idea that drug addiction is a law enforcement issue when in reality it is a health and medical issue.
Are there any additional thoughts you would like to share?
Yes. We have had an enduring "War on Drugs" for about 50 years now. It has been rife with racism and has sustained the continued disenfranchisement of people of color and poor people. The failed War on Drugs needs to end, and addiction must be looked at beyond a solely punitive lens.