OpEd: Vermont Should Pursue Programs that Pair Youth with Police

by Dean Powers

The heroin epidemic continues to be highlighted by Vermont Gossip interviewees as the problem that Vermont needs to confront. Vermont is such a small state that we should know everybody who comes and goes and we should be able to track down the importers of the drugs that are destroying the social fabric of our state.

Police should reach out to youth in the state to foster relationships that will bring new information to police in the future. Pairing youth with police might also retain more Vermont youths in a state that is one of the oldest in the nation.

Youth tend to be out in the community more for their age and see more and are exposed to peers who are experimenting with drugs. These informants can bring the police information to intervene early in a youth’s development and get the sick into treatment.

Drug addiction is above all else a mental illness. The sick are trying to medicate themselves to adjust to peer pressure and social norms among their peers. I speak as someone who tried drugs in high school and college. I didn’t have a strong connection to the community and my peers were using drugs, so I used drugs, too, to fit in.

Drug users isolate themselves from the rest of the community to partake in using drugs. This type of behavior does not lend itself well to a community that is supposed to be everybody joining together to make changes and keep a solid economy. This is what respondents say will make their communities stronger in their responses to Vermont Gossip.

In addition, there should be programs that are offered to drug dealers to get them out of an illicit enterprise and get them involved in the community. We could crowd source revenue to start second hand stores in Vermont, which will be the wave of the future in a resource strapped economy. Former drug dealers can run these enterprises and pay back the money invested to start them up. It would be up to the drug dealers to turn themselves into police and report who they are getting their drugs from. In exchange they would be protected from charges and offered an opportunity for a fresh start in Vermont.

More than anything, the elders in Vermont should make more of an effort to connect with youth. It is the responsibility of the elders to create the atmosphere of community in Vermont. They have the power, the money and the time to invest in youth programs and youth activities. If they see youth as a nuisance as at least one teen Vermont Gossip interviewed felt they do, then there is no hope for our collective future as a species and our survival on this harsh planet.

Dean Powers is a former community organizer who fought for health care reform and now reporter for the Vermont Gossip.

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