Shumlin signs budget adjustment bill at opiate treatment center

Gov. Peter Shumlin hands the pen he used to sign the annual budget adjustment act to Bob Bick, director of mental health and substance abuse services for HowardCenter on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Gov. Peter Shumlin hands the pen he used to sign the annual budget adjustment act to Bob Bick, director of mental health and substance abuse services for HowardCenter on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

SOUTH BURLINGTON — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a mid-year increase in state spending Tuesday, adding more than $15 million to the FY 2014 budget.

The 2014 Budget Adjustment Act includes $7 million for Medicaid; $3.2 million for temporary housing; $2.8 million for the Vermont Veterans’ Home; and $1.6 million for the Agency of Transportation to cover winter maintenance costs.

The Budget Adjustment Act is used to balance previous budgets and pull together money for unanticipated costs.

One such cost is the governor’s initiative to support heroin and opiate addiction treatment in the state. Currently, opiate addicts have to travel long distances to treatment centers with long waiting list.

“What this budget adjustment does is advance the money to ensure that places like this treatment center here in South Burlington can stop saying, ‘We can’t help you because we got waiting lines,’” Shumlin said during a news conference at HowardCenter in South Burlington.

The drug treatment facility here – and others around the state – will receive a share of a $200,000 budget increase to bolster capacity.

“Last year, HowardCenter as an agency saw over 16,000 people, that’s enough people if they stood in a line from here to Bolton,” said Bob Bick, director of mental health and substance abuse services for the center. “And of that number, more than a third were being seen for substance abuse-related issues.”

Shumlin wants lawmakers to approve a recommendation to pump more than $12 million into addiction treatment programs next year, he said, “to ensure that we are actually trying to get a handle on this disease.”

The budget adjustment bill also includes an additional $960,000 in homeowner and renter rebates; $250,000 for the Department of Health to clean up a pesticide mishap in Rutland; and $650,000 to cover a shortfall in the judicial branch budget.

John Herrick

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