BENNINGTON, Vt. — Stephanie Predel, a stick-thin 23-year-old freshly out of jail, said she was off heroin. But she knows precisely where she could get more drugs if she ever wanted them — at the support meetings for addicts. “I can get most of my drugs right at the meeting,” she said. “Drug dealers go because they know they’re going to get business.” She added, “People are going into the bathroom to get high.”
Bennington, a pre-Revolutionary town of 17,000 people, presents another face of the heroin epidemic that has swept through Vermont. In January, Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address to what he said was a “full-blown heroin crisis” gripping the state. In an interview later, he said that the state’s localities had managed only a patchwork response. Citing Rutland’s antidrug crusade as a hopeful sign, he said that not all areas had felt the same urgency. “Bennington is where Rutland was four years ago,” he said.
Known for its pottery and its classical music, Bennington exudes an early American gentility. A distinctive bell tower sits atop the Old First Congregational Church, where Robert Frost is buried. An obelisk commemorates victory over the British at the Battle of Bennington (1777).