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USDA to Host Roundtables on Rural Opioid Misuse
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 03/08/2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett Wednesday announced 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.

Roundtables will be held:

- March 14 in Pennsylvania

- April 11 in Utah

- May 9 in Kentucky

- June 6 in Oklahoma

- July 11 in Maine

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. USDA is committed to being a partner to rural communities to address substance misuse disorder at the local level through program investment, strategic partnerships and best practice implementation. For more information, go to USDA's opioid misuse in rural America webpage.

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, 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.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet e-Connectivity in rural areas. For more information, visit

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