USDA fighting opioid misuse in rural Virginia (Keeping the Farm)
(Editor’s note: Beth Green is the state director of Virginia’s USDA Rural Development.)
Opioid misuse is a growing threat to the quality of life in rural America.
With rates of drug overdose deaths in rural areas surpassing those in urban, it’s clear that this crisis has hit rural communities particularly hard.
According to the Center of Disease Control, in 2016 nearly 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose.
An overwhelming majority of these overdose deaths involved an opioid — making 2016 a year in which more opioid-related deaths occurred than any other year on record.
Specifically in Virginia, a recent CDC report shows a “significant increase” in drug overdose deaths, up by 34.7 percent from 2015 to 2016.
This epidemic has already affected a substantial amount of lives in small towns and rural places across the commonwealth.
Luckily, USDA is taking steps to combat this widespread crisis.
Earlier this month, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced that USDA is giving funding priority in two key grant programs to address opioid misuse in rural communities.
This means that USDA is reserving $5 million in the Community Facilities Grant Program and is giving priority to Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program applications proposing innovative projects to address the opioid epidemic in rural communities.
Prioritized Programs: In the Community Facilities grant program, rural communities, non-profit organizations and federally recognized tribes can apply through the usual Community Facilities grant application process for grants up to $150,000 for innovative projects such as mobile treatment clinics.
Community Facilities grants may fund up to 75 percent of an eligible project.
Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program applicants will receive priority for telemedicine projects with the primary purpose of providing opioid prevention, treatment or recovery services.
Eligible proposals can receive 10 priority points on their applications.
Funding for both programs was made available through the FY 2018 Omnibus spending bill.
The funding comes at a time when the Trump administration is pursuing an ambitious agenda to combat the nation’s opioid crisis.
How to apply: Applications for Community Facilities grants funded with this National Office reserve should be submitted on or before June 4.
Applications will be accepted at all Rural Development offices in Virginia.
Applications submitted after this date will be considered for regular, state-allocated funding.
The application deadline for Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants is June 4.
Applications can be submitted electronically at Grants.gov or in hardcopy to: USDA Rural Development Telecommunications Programs, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 2844, STOP 1597, Washington, DC 20250-1597.
Other Resources: In addition to program investment, USDA is helping communities share information about best practices to address the crisis.
Visit USDA’s Rural Opioid Misuse web page for more information.
Beyond USDA, Secretary Sonny Perdue chaired an interagency task force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, which was created by President Donald J. Trump in 2017.
Three months ago, the Task Force released a series of recommendations to increase rural prosperity and improve quality of life in rural America, including a recommendation to modernize healthcare access.
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