One of the area’s best know advocates for treatment of drug addiction, Lisa Roberts, RN, of the Portsmouth Health Department is calling the move by the president to fund that treatment a step in the right direction because much of it is aimed at rural America.
President Obama has proposed $1.1 billion in new funding to help every American with an opioid use disorder who wants treatment get the help they need.
On Tuesday the President joined individuals in recovery, family members, medical professionals, law enforcement officials and other leaders at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. The annual summit is organized by Operation UNITE, which was launched by Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY). As part of Tuesday’s event, the president is announcing additional public and private sector actions to escalate the fight against the prescription opioid abuse and heroin epidemic, which is claiming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans each year.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gave the opening keynote address to approximately 1,900 of the nation’s top researchers, law enforcement, advocates and policy-makers, which began today for the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.
“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,” Vilsack said. “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.”
Vilsack has been appointed to lead a new interagency effort focused on addressing rural America’s struggles with heroin and opioid abuse. He is tasked with developing bipartisan policy reforms to reduce suicide rates, improve the physical and mental health of all Americans, and reduce financial stress.
“Rural America, and Appalachia in particular, have been dealing with this opioid epidemic now for nearly two decades,” Lisa Roberts, RN, of the Portsmouth Health Department, told the Daily Times in an exclusive interview Tuesday. “Poverty and isolation plays a large role in the poor mental health and addiction rates seen in rural Appalachia. I’m glad to see an increased focus on these rural communities-which tend to be poor in the resources necessary to fight this public health crisis. Typically you see Metropolitan areas getting the most attention so any time rural areas are getting targeted for additional attention it’s a good thing. We look forward to working with Secretary Tom Vilsack on this issue. I’m going out to D.C. in a few weeks for a first-ever Roundtable about this very thing. It’s being put together by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. So I am very happy to see this problem starting to be prioritized”.
On Monday, the Department of Agriculture announced that its $1.4 million Rural Health and Safety Education Grant Program to enhance the quality of life in rural areas through health and safety education projects has been expanded to include a focus on addressing the critical challenges related to substance use disorders in rural communities across the country.