Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I see a post from Lamoille Housing Partnership. It’s one of their monthly updates informing me that, of their 280-unit portfolio, there are currently four vacancies, and it has received 112 applications for these four units.
I step back from scrolling and pick up the News & Citizen. I’m met with a front-page article highlighting the frightening increase in opioid related deaths in 2021, both in Lamoille County and across the state. As I read, I’m reminded of a recent newspaper article that reported the following findings of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Vermont had the highest percentage increase in overdose deaths during the pandemic. Nationally, overdose deaths increased 27.2 percent during the first year of the pandemic; in Vermont they increased 70 percent.
This morning, my phone flashed a notification. A friend sent me an Action Network petition created by Vermont educators, imploring Gov. Phil Scott and Secretary Dan French of the Vermont Agency of Education to provide increased resources and support to schools during this difficult phase of the pandemic. The letter reflects the impossible stress that our school staff and systems are under. Within a short time, it had over 1,400 signatures.
I set my phone down and whispered a message of gratitude to the educators, administrators and the universe that have miraculously kept both of my children’s schools open at this time. The peace of every family and school that I know is exceedingly fragile, if not actively fractured at this time. The same can be said for everyone within the health, mental health and human service systems.
Behind each one of these headlines, petitions and statistics are human stories of pain, frustration, desperation and so many unmet needs. Across every facet of life, Vermonters and the systems that support them are under duress. For our most vulnerable neighbors, it is becoming increasingly difficult to access basic needs such as shelter, health care, food and human connection.
When I center these human stories, it is clear to me that any sustained, healthy recovery for our state depends on us meeting the basic human needs of our neighbors. In that spirit, I will carry these stories and statistics with me as I steer into this legislative session. They will inform every aspect of the work that I do in the coming months.
I’m committed to engaging in this work with curiosity, courage and compassion. I am grateful to my community for entrusting me with this role. I look forward to working together toward a more stable, sure and lasting peace for all in our community.
Kate Donnally, a Democrat from Hyde Park, also represents Belvidere, Johnson and Wolcott in the Vermont House of Representatives.