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Letters to the Editor

Senate update from Tim Ashe

It seems nearly every day brings news of an overdose occurring somewhere in Chittenden County that relates directly to opiate addiction. Opiate addiction cuts across all income groups, ethnicities and professions, and has become the most pressing public health issue facing Vermont.

Last fall, I reached out to constituents asking for ideas and direction for legislation in 2016. The overwhelming priority throughout the county was battling the opiate epidemic.

In response, Michael Sirotkin and I introduced S.243, a bill that included a number of strategies to fight this problem. The strategies included more and better use of the state’s prescription drug monitoring system, an increase in the number of addicted patients allowed to be under the supervision of a physician, the development of a prescription drug takeback program and opiate prescribing education of medical professions. This bill, which passed both the House and Senate, will soon be signed into law by the governor. It was the Legislature’s best attempt to update our efforts to better manage those who become addicted and to reduce the number of people who become addicted in the first place.

I would like to thank all of you who contacted me on this critical issue throughout the process, and there were many of you. I think S.243 is a great example of the progress we can make when the Legislature and the knowledgeable, thoughtful people we represent come together to solve problems.

Please contact me at timashe@burlingtontelecom.net with any questions on this or any other legislative issue.

Tim Ashe, State Senator
Chittenden County
Chair, Senate Finance Committee

Swim safer this season

As we approach another season of swimming, the Live Like Benjo Foundation would like to remind everybody about the dangers associated with prolonged breath-holding, especially when preceded by hyperventilating or excessive physical activity prior to swimming. When a swimmer attempts to override the urge to breathe to stay underwater longer — which is normally triggered by a buildup of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream — they begin to hyperventilate.

The practice of hyperventilating combined with prolonged breath-holding is known as hypoxic training. It is performed to enable individuals to stay underwater longer, but it reduces the CO2 far below the threshold. The brain doesn’t get the trigger to breathe, and the swimmer does not come to the surface for air. Because of the lack of fresh oxygen, the brain will “faint” and the next automatic response by the body is to take a breath. When this occurs underwater, the swimmer usually drowns. A victim of shallow-water blackout will do so in two minutes or less.

Many children have died from shallow-water blackout or SWB, as well. These deaths have been attributed to excessive physical exertion, which has the same effect of hyperventilating, in or out of the water and then playing breath-holding games in the water. These common but potentially deadly games include Marco Polo, challenging other children to see who can swim the most laps under water or just playing to see who can stay underwater the longest.

Unless a SWB victim’s pre-swimming activities are known, it is almost impossible to assign SWB as the cause; therefore, related drowning victims are simply labeled as “accidental.” SWB can occur at any water depth.

The Live Like Benjo Foundation does not advocate for the prohibition of swimming, but we do advocate for the prohibition of prolonged breath-holding, especially when it is preceded by hyperventilating. Additionally, we advocate for the prohibition of breath-holding games, the close monitoring of children’s activities and physical exertion before swimming, always swimming with a buddy and constant vigilance of everybody in the water. Visit livelikebenjo.org or email foundation@livelikebenjo.org for more information.

Dean E. Haller, President
Live Like Benjo Foundation
Underhill Center