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Katie Tanner, Fred Holmes

holmes is the only pediatrician in the state prescribing Suboxone, a drug that can be very effective in weaning addicts off legal opiates such as OxyContin, Vicodin and percocet. Many patients credit holmes, and Suboxone, with saving their lives. But Suboxone is also controversial. It’s now the no. 1 abused drug in Vermont prisons, and many doctors want nothing to do with it.

Holmes plans to retire next summer, and, so far, no other pediatrician has come forward to replace him as the go-to doctor for treating teen opiate addiction with Suboxone. Meanwhile, the 67-year-old doctor will feature

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prominently in a documentary on the subject. After making movies about foster children and heroin addiction in Vermont, filmmaker Bess O’Brien is training her camera on opiate abuse in St. Albans. O’Brien has enlisted help from David Sheff, author of the No. 1 New York Times best seller Beautiful Boy, about his own son’s drug addiction. Sheff is scheduled to visit St. Albans in April to participate in community meetings related to the film project. O’Brien, says Holmes, “seems to be everywhere, and this adventure alone has generated a great deal more chatter about our young folks and the messes they seem to get themselves into.” The doctor isn’t about to just walk away. He’s working with the HowardCenter and the Vermont Chronic Care Initiative to finalize a “multidisciplinary team approach to help the youngsters.”

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Update: Eric Smeltzer, the state scientist who monitors lake pollution, says follow-up studies show that on one day in April, twice as much phosphorus poured into the lake from the Winooski River than the amount contributed by 60 water treatment plants on the Vermont side of the lake over a six-month period. Larger-than-normal algae blooms did occur last summer, confirms Mike Winslow, staff scientist for the Lake Champlain Committee. But neither Smeltzer nor Winslow can specify the effects on the lake’s health. No one has any idea, for example, whether carp copulation did produce a baby boom. Both monitors say ongoing studies will yield definitive data, but Smeltzer points out, “The lake certainly can recover from such an event.” Much will depend on how humans respond, he adds. If homeowners “armor” — for example, by building a retaining wall — their lakefront property that could damage shoreline biohabitats, Smeltzer warns. Contractors did experience an increase in business, says Amanda Ibey of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Northern Vermont. She can’t quantify the windfall, but notes that flooding repairs “helped a lot of people come out of the dark period when there was no work.”

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There was a lot of competition in Vermont this year for Most Calamitous Weather Event. Before Tropical Storm Irene, the Champlain Islands projected “winner” was the spring flooding that damaged hundreds of homes on Lake Champlain. Scientists speculated the May inundation could have long-lasting repercussions for the lake’s already-troubled ecosystem. One scientist in particular expressed concern about the “huge phosphorus load” flushed into the lake. There was fear of unprecedented algae eruptions that would be deadly to fish and hazardous to boaters and swimmers. But there were also suggestions of positive outcomes in the form of a carp population explosion and lots of construction work.

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