Over the past few weeks there has been a transition at Castleton, from warm summer days to chilly fall ones.
And while Vermont is known for its changing seasons, it has been going through a different transition over the past few years, a transition from a quiet ski town state, to a state with the second largest per capita rate for treated heroin and opiate addicts.
Now Vermont finds itself trying to transition back.
A mere 68,880 feet from Castleton College’s campus is the city of Rutland. In a car, the drive takes roughly 15 minutes to cover the 12.1 miles. Rutland is one of many cities that has felt the full effect of the heroin epidemic in Vermont and happens to be the closest city to Castleton.
But has the school or its students felt any crossover from the problem in Rutland? Is heroin at Castleton College?
According to Keith Molinari, head of the college’s Public Safety Department, heroin may be having an effect on thefts at Castleton, although he said it is isolated.
“While we have no direct incidents of heroin use on campus specifically, we have had thefts on campus that were to support a heroin addiction,” he said.
The incident he spoke of made headlines in the Rutland Herald on Oct. 22 with the arrest of former student Heather Berenyi for stealing library books and pawning them in Rutland to feed her heroin habit.
But Molinari said the incident took place last spring and he hasn’t come across other instances of heroin related crime.
Students like Aaron Wallace and Christopher Williams say while they haven’t seen anyone use heroin, but they have known former students from Castleton who have tried it.
“I think there’s a possibility of use (here). I mean I’ve known one person who’s tried it,” Wallace said.
Williams mirrored these observations.
“Yeah I think that in small ways it has affected the community,” Williams said.
Williams also revealed that his former friend died from an overdose of a similar opiate called dilaudid.
Many Castleton Students like Olivia Janus often take the turn onto Route 4 in Castleton and make the quick drive to Rutland to go shopping or get a bite to eat. But do they feel comfortable in the city that has gained notoriety?
“Yeah, sometimes it’s kind of sketchy there. I’ve just heard stories and stuff,” Janus said.
For Rutland police, the heroin epidemic is something officers have gotten used to.
“Two years ago at one point I could find needles on the street on a weekly basis,” said Sgt. Matthew Prouty, who has worked for the Rutland City Police for 15 years.
Prouty said heroin has been a problem for the past four years, but he believes the situation is better than most realize.
“I think the public perception sometimes is that the sky is falling, but really that’s not the case,” he said.
Prouty said he has a lot of confidence in the new initiative Rutland is taking, called Project Vision.
“The key is engaging the community,” said Prouty, adding that being able to work with social workers and parole officers more hands-on has been extremely helpful.
Another source of relief for the heroin problem is the new methadone clinic in Rutland, which Prouty said is already treating its fair share of patients. Prouty did, however, show concern about drugs like Suboxone and Methadone, pointing out that they can be altered and used for the wrong reasons.
While there are signs of the problem subsiding in Rutland, Prouty says it’s inevitable that many areas of the state will see some small effects at one point.
Castleton Police Chief Peter Mantello agrees.
“We have had burglaries that are probably from drugs. We can’t directly link them to heroin, but were pretty sure it’s the drug of choice for past criminals we had issues with here,” he said.
For the most part though, Castleton has remained the same and this fall feels like many of the past ones, students and officials say. It’s hard to say that Vermont’s heroin problem hasn’t affected Castleton in any way, but certainly isn’t prominent at the school.
“It has branched out and definitely had some impact on smaller towns just like here at Castleton, but we haven’t seen it as a prevalent problem yet,” Mantello said.