Extension, American Farm Bureau working to prevent rural opioid abuse

Extension, American Farm Bureau working to prevent rural opioid abuse
BLACKSBURG—Virginia Cooperative Extension has been awarded a grant to help with the opioid crisis affecting Virginians, especially those in rural areas.

In June, Extension was awarded a $1.28 million grant for collaborative opioid work through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“The rates of death as a result of opioid overdose are climbing, and they are over 50 percent greater in rural Southwest Virginia than for the state,” shared Dr. Kathy Hosig, director for the Virginia Tech Center for Public Health Practice and Research. “There is a clear role for Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension to provide safety education and training at the community level to help stop the cycle of abuse.”

The five-year grant will support health education initiatives spearheaded by Extension that are aimed at preventing opioid abuse in vulnerable Virginia communities. The grant money will enable Extension to offer educational programs focused on preventing the abuse and misuse of opioids and other illicit substances to those most at risk. The efforts will focus on six counties: Grayson, Henrico, Henry, Orange, Prince George and Sussex.

This is especially important since research commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union revealed that opioids are hitting farm families harder than most. A Morning Consult survey of farmers found that three in four farmers and farm workers are, or have been, directly impacted by opioid abuse.

The poll also found that farmers said it is easy for people in their communities to access large amounts of opioids, but access to treatment and services is limited. The Morning Consult survey also found that half of farmers say opioid addiction is a disease, not a lack of willpower.

AFBF and NFU believe that rural communities are strong, and the strengths of their towns can overcome the opioid crisis. The two groups started a campaign called “Farm Town Strong” to help de-stigmatize opioid abuse and provide information and resources to help those struggling with it.

“We know the only way we will see an end to this epidemic is by neighbors helping neighbors,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “The Farm Town Strong website is designed to help our rural communities in doing just that.”

On FarmTownStrong.org, visitors are given resources for prevention and treatment of opioid addiction, including hotline numbers, and information on where to get treatment and how to dispose of opioids properly.

Media: Contact Will Rodger, AFBF policy communications director, at 202-406-3642.



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