Few folks around Bennington County can be upset that area police forces are working closely together in conjunction with the state police and other state officials to clamp down on illegal drug dealing. Two weeks ago we saw the second major sweep up of known offenders who were trafficking in illegal narcotics, all of the "hard" sort that included heroin, cocaine and pharmaceuticals. Hopefully the message does go forth that the risks of such trafficking, whether distributing or possessing, carry not only a certain stigma but also severe risks that impact a person's life for a very long time.

There's no real upside or silver lining to the use of such illegal drugs.

They are destructive not only to the user but their families and the community as a whole. There can be little doubt that they lead to an increase in petty - sometimes not-so-petty - crime, and hold the potential for violent behavior. The people who get caught up in its web need help; in some cases, they deserve incarceration or other punishment, especially if this behavior is repeated over and over.

But a good case can be made that most people also don't start off wanting to become drug dealers or addicts, but get drawn into it slowly over a period of time. Those fortunate enough to escape that should also give a moment to reflect on how such a fate could easily have been theirs as well.

Not every person who becomes addicted to harmful drugs brings a back story of dysfunctional family life, lack of encouragement in school, and maybe a few bad breaks in the working world as an adult. But for many, there are challenges they faced - and granted, some that were perhaps self-created - that suggest with a little help, they can get themselves straightened out and back on track to being productive members of society.

Such help, however, is severely lacking here in this corner of Vermont. A methadone clinic discussed for years in Rutland, a community that knows all about the ravages that come with heroin use, looks set to finally open, years after it should have. Other types of treatment facilities, not only for drug but also alcohol abuse, are often far away and not convenient for someone struggling to put their life back together. In the past, strong family bonds and community institutions like churches might have helped bridge this gap, at least in terms of moral support, but those seem not as robust today as they may have been at some point in the past. So treatment facilities that are affordable and nearby are essential if a long term solution to the problem posed by heroin, oxycontin and cocaine is to be found. "Operation Strike" is only the front end.

The back end is slower, harder, and probably won't often make the front pages, but without it, we'll be reading about drug roundups for a very long time. Now Is the time to look at what is the next step.


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