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News (Media Awareness Project) - US VT: Vermont Senate Panel Hears Testimony On Drug Trade
Title:US VT: Vermont Senate Panel Hears Testimony On Drug Trade
Published On:2012-01-28
Source:Burlington Free Press (VT)
Fetched On:2012-01-31 06:01:12

MONTPELIER -- Evidence of gang activity is on the rise in Vermont,
spurred by an active illicit drug market and the ease of obtaining
guns in the state, the commander of the Vermont Narcotics
Investigation Unit told a Senate panel Thursday. Also at the hearing,
a state Health Department official expressed support for the concept
of allowing state police drug investigators access to Vermont's
prescription drug monitoring database.

"There's no question that we have gang members from large
metropolitan areas coming to Vermont specifically to profit from the
drug trade," Vermont State Police Capt. Glenn Hall said at a Senate
Judiciary Committee hearing.

Hall said drug traffickers sometimes trade drugs for guns, because
guns are harder to obtain in other states than Vermont and bring a
higher value when resold back in states such as Massachusetts and New York.

Dominic D'Amato, manager of facility operations for the state
Corrections Department, said guards at the state's seven jails have
gathered evidence that suggested inmates with ties to out-of-state
gangs such as the Bloods, Latin Kings and Aryan Nation, among others,
have been incarcerated in Vermont.

"There's a saying they have that goes like 'Come to Vermont on
vacation. Leave it on probation,'" D'Amato said. He said some of the
groups with names such as the Chittenden County White Boys and the
Franklin County White Boys are homegrown groups that are trying to
emulate the out-of-state gangs.

The testimony about gang activity was sought by the committee's
chairman, Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who said graffiti and other
signs of a gang presence have turned up in his hometown recently.
Sears said he wants to see Hall's unit, formerly known as the Vermont
Drug Task Force, play the role of statewide gang task force.

"The idea is to have them focus more on gang activity," Sears said
following Thursday's hearing. "I'm hoping we are able to get more
federal dollars for this purpose, and add some troopers to the task
force or create a separate unit."

Opiate monitoring

The Senate panel also heard testimony from Deputy Health Commissioner
Barbara Cimaglio and state Medical Practice Board Director David
Herlihy about the state's ongoing prescription opiate problem.

Cimaglio said the department supported plans to have doctors undergo
special training to better handle pain management patients and better
identify signs of prescription opiate addiction.

She also said the department wants all doctors to check with the
department's Prescription Drug Monitoring System before issuing
prescriptions and is prepared to provide three Vermont State Police
drug investigators access to the database when necessary, something
prohibited by the law that set up the database in 2006.

"The concept is one we support," she said. "We understand that
because of the great deal of diversion that it is important to look
at this, and we are experiencing conditions that we weren't
experiencing when we first started the Vermont Prescription Drug System."

Herlihy told the panel the Medical Practice Board has put in place a
policy requiring doctors to be more vigilant with patients receiving
pain medications, and he cited a case that underlined why the policy
is needed, both for the patient and the doctor.

"I had a report that showed that one doctor's patients filled at one
pharmacy in about a seven-or eight-month period (involved) several
hundred thousand dollars of narcotics," Herlihy said.

He said there was "nothing public in the case yet" because it remains
under investigation.
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