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VPR's Traces Project Collects Stories Of The Impacts Of Drug Addiction In Vermont

"Vermont Public Radio has launched Traces, a statewide crowdsourcing project that aims to catalog how drug addiction affects us all.

“Traces isn’t a project about statistics, policy, or crime – it’s about people,” said Digital Reporter Taylor Dobbs. “Whether they are addicts, parents, victims, or bystanders, many Vermonters have stories of addiction that go deeper than the speeches and treatment strategies that often make the news. The impacts of addiction are many, and Traces is an effort to explore those impacts and the way addiction shapes our communities.”

The project began with a story about a family struggling to move forward after losing one of its members to a heroin overdose. The Dekeersgieter family memorialized Brennan, their son and brother, with a bench at Oakledge Park in Burlington.

Now, VPR is inviting Vermonters to share their own stories and photographs of the things that remind them – of people they've lost, or almost lost, of their own struggles with addiction, or of the challenging path to recovery.

The Traces project already features stories from four Vermonters – one whose childhood was rocked by a crash resulting from drunk driving, and three who have lost a son to addiction.

"If anyone had told me a year ago that I would lose a child to a drug overdose, I would have told them how unlikely the odds of that were," writes Joyce Cameron. "Sadly, I would have been wrong." Joyce shared a photograph from the summit of Mt. Philo, where an Adirondack chair now sits to commemorate her son, Will. He was 24 years old when he died of an accidental overdose.

“Our hope is that the stories currently featured in Traces will inspire and encourage Vermonters to share their own stories, and help us explore the deep and subtle ways that drug addiction in Vermont leaves its mark,” said Digital Producer Angela Evancie.

People can share their stories by emailing share@vpr.net or by leaving a message at 802.552.8899. Over the next several weeks, VPR fill the Traces page with submissions, and build a collection of stories and images that open and deepen the conversation about addiction

The Traces project complements VPR’s ongoing coverage of opiate addiction in the state. Since Governor Peter Shumlin's 2014 State of the State address drew national attention to Vermont's opiate addiction crisis, VPR News and Vermont Edition have covered the issue with breadth and depth from many angles, including treatment, prevention, overdose antidotes, and the connection between Vermont's drug problem and an underground gun market, as well as the field hearings and drug summits at which officials have gathered to develop strategies for dealing with addiction in Vermont and the region. 

Earlier this spring, Reporter Steve Zind produced a weeklong series on the challenges facing pregnant women and mothers who are addicted to opiates. News Director John Dillon said he sees the Traces project as a natural extension of this coverage.

“Traces goes beyond the statistics and the stigma, and brings a human element to the story of addiction in the Vermont community.”