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USDA to Host Roundtables on Rural Opioid Misuse

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USDA to Host Roundtables on Rural Opioid Misuse

The Department of Agriculture will host a series of roundtable talks on opioid misuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2016 nearly 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, with an overwhelming majority of these overdose deaths involved an opioid. Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced last week a series of monthly roundtables on opioids through the summer.

“The CDC announced that this crisis is worsening. The new agency report found that hospitalizations for opioid overdose jumped by 30 percent and 45 states last year.”

The action follows the creation of Farm Town Strong, an effort by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and USDA to combat the opioid epidemic. Hazlett says the epidemic goes beyond a public health issue, saying “this is a matter of rural prosperity.”

“We see this crisis as impacting worker productivity. It is increasing healthcare demands and putting substantial stress on already limited emergency response and law enforcement resources.”

Hazlett says there are some programs that she hopes will be enhanced with the new Farm Bill to help with this crisis.

“We have a communities facility program that can help with treatment clinics, equipment, transition housing. We also have a distance learning and telemedicine program that can be used to, once there is that broadband connectivity, for equipment to establish that telemedicine connection.”

The first roundtable will be held Wednesday in Pennsylvania, with events in Utah, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Maine scheduled throughout the summer. Key topics will include challenges associated with substance use disorder, strategies for prevention, treatment and recovery, and how those measures can be replicated to effectively address the epidemic in other rural communities.