Tennessee Director for Rural Development Jim Tracy applauded the department’s commitment to address the crisis.
“While no corner of the country has gone untouched by the opioid crisis, small towns and rural places have been particularly hard hit,” Hazlett said. “The challenge of opioid misuse is an issue of rural prosperity and will take all hands on deck to address. The webpage we are launching will help rural leaders build a response that is tailored to meet the needs of their community.”
“As you will see from the map on the new website, Tennessee has one of the highest number and age-adjusted rates of drug overdose deaths in the country. We are happy to offer this new resource to help rural leaders respond to and manage the crisis.”
The National Center for Health Statistics estimated more than 63,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016. More than half of those deaths involved opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin.
USDA plays a role to help rural communities address this national problem at the local level through program investment, strategic partnerships and best practice implementation.
In April, President Donald 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, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue presented the task force’s findings to the president, which 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. The assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit rd.usda.gov/tn.