The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced last week that USDA is hosting a series of monthly roundtables on opioids through the summer.
“The opioid epidemic in rural communities is more than a public health issue,” Hazlett said. “This is a matter of rural prosperity. Opioid misuse is impacting the quality of life and economic well-being in small towns, which is why partnering with rural leaders to address this crisis is critical to the future of rural America.”
Beginning this month, Hazlett will convene regional roundtables to bring together partners in five states to raise awareness and better understand what support rural communities need to address opioid misuse. Key topics will include challenges associated with substance use disorder; strategies for prevention, treatment and recovery; and how these measures can be replicated to effectively address the epidemic in other rural communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2016 nearly 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose. An overwhelming majority of these overdose deaths involved an opioid. At 174 people each day, this is more than the number of lives lost in car accidents or gun-related homicides. While no corner of the country has gone untouched by this issue, the opioid epidemic has hit rural America particularly hard.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018,USDA Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America.
In the area of quality of life, the Task Force included a recommendation to modernize health care access. The report highlighted the importance of telemedicine in enhancing access to primary care and specialty providers. The Task Force also found that improved access to mental and behavioral health care, particularly prevention, treatment and recovery resources, is vital to addressing the opioid crisis and other substance misuse in rural communities.
To view the report in its entirety: Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB).
Roundtables will be held:
- March 14 in Pennsylvania
- April 11 in Utah
- May 9 in Kentucky
- June 6 in Oklahoma
- July 11 in Maine
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