Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Next Steps, Funding to Address Substance Abuse in Rural Communities
ATLANTA– At the Operation UNITE Summit in Atlanta today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a series of upcoming rural town halls as well as funding rural communities can use to conduct health and safety outreach around prescription painkiller and heroin abuse. Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, accounted for 28,648 deaths in 2014, and rural communities are affected at higher rates than urban communities. This is in part due to a lack of outreach and treatment resources available in rural communities, and this year USDA is expanding its Rural Health and Safety Education (RHSE) competitive grants program to give rural communities the opportunity to use funds for programs that will address the opioid epidemic.
In January, President Obama tapped Secretary Vilsack to lead an interagency task force focused on this specific challenge. Recent efforts have helped identify effective tools to reduce drug use and overdose, including evidence-based prevention programs, prescription drug monitoring, medication-assisted treatment and the overdose reversal drug naloxone.
"The opioid epidemic is a fast-growing problem all across America, and we know that rural communities are facing an even higher burden than those in urban areas," said Vilsack. "We've identified ways to use existing resources to help rural towns and organizations address this challenge head-on and potentially save lives, and I look forward to meeting with community leaders to better understand how we can further support their efforts to create healthier, safer futures for families and individuals who may be struggling."