Made in Vermont has come to mean something to millions throughout America and the world. Quality, purity, lasting and integrity are only a few of the adjectives that come to mind in defining what the Vermont Brand represents.
The Vermont Brand is the envy of many states and companies. It takes a long time to establish a brand and once established it must be protected. It is no small wonder that the Vermont Attorney General's office vigorously prosecutes those individuals and companies who attempt to counterfeit, The Vermont Brand.
Vermonters have an emotional attachment to The Vermont Brand and don't take likely to anyone who might misuse it.
Unfortunately, The Vermont Brand has come under attack and has incurred serious damage. It has been tarnished from the reporting in the national media of the heroin epidemic that has overcome many of the state's towns and villages.
Several recent articles appeared in the New York Times depicting the illegal drug problems in two of Vermont's largest towns -- Rutland and Bennington. On Feb. 28, the New York Times headlined, "A Call to Arms on a Vermont Epidemic." Katherine Q. Seelye wrote a lengthy piece beginning with "Block by block, this city (Rutland) in central Vermont has been fighting a heroin epidemic so entrenched that it has confounded all efforts to combat it.
When R. Gil Kerlikowske, the National Drug Czar came to Vermont, from Washington, D.C. , as he did several weeks ago, national attention was focused on Vermont, its troubles and what we are doing about them.
On March 17, 2014 Senator Patrick Leahy convened a meeting of the U. S. Senate's Judiciary Committee, in Rutland. The Vermont drug crisis and how we are dealing with it were the main topics. And once again Vermont and its drug crisis appeared in the national press.
The gathering was not the Committee's first visit to Vermont investigating the state's drug problem. In December, 2008, the Committee met in Rutland, St. Albans and Barre - for a similar purpose.
Five years ago, at the St. Albans meeting, the media noted what Sen. Leahy had said to his audience, "In the great tradition of this state, Vermonters come together in times of hardship, and I am proud to see all of you here today, ready and willing to work together on this problem."
Senator's Leahy's words must not have been heard -- the drug problem just got worse and so has its impact on The Vermont Brand.
With this type of negative exposure of how can one deny that The Vermont Brand has not been tarnished? Use any description you wish, damage, stained or tarnished, when assessing what the Vermont drug crises has done to the Vermont Brand -- no matter, the brand can be restored. The restoration process will occur once this urgency has the full attention, of the administration, legislature, judiciary, law enforcement, health and human service organizations and the public. Partial attention had already been put forward, as with the Vermont Senate's S-295 but hardly enough. The drug crisis in Vermont is in effect, Tropical Storm Irene magnified to the 10th power. And just how the state rallied to enact the recovery from the August, 2011 storm, similar actions, only magnified, will be required in dealing with the current crisis.
We have had a drug problem in Vermont for too long-- and too many of us have ignored it or denied its very existence. We have been physically, emotionally, financially and socially damaged and so has our image. So why not take the offensive and in doing so remove once and for all the stain that has been placed on our state? And only by being fully engaged, will we be in a position to address the scourge that has impacted thousands of Vermonters, now held captive to drug addiction.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington.