On Jan. 31, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released a new Rural Community Action Guide in a White House ceremony. ONDCP Director James Carroll highlighted the very serious problem of drug and opioid use in our rural communities, and the essential role that these communities must play in confronting it. The new guide is designed to help communities undertake this vital work.
The vast majority of rural communities and counties are confronting unprecedented problems of drug and opioid use, including, recently, synthetic fentanyl. Deaths due to drug overdose incidents have skyrocketed, as have deaths due to suicide. Some counties spend as much in a month on county jail operations as they spend in an entire year on economic development. Truly, rural communities are in crisis.
In response, these areas will need to confront economic and human resource problems that lead to despair due to unemployment and weak prospects for the future. They will need to confront the stigma associated with drug use, and even the stigma associated with its treatment. And they will need to create innovative community coalitions to specifically address drug issues.
These areas are where the guide can be useful. The result of a new collaboration between ONDCP and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the guide offers critical information from lessons learned in the field. Presented by the people and entities actually doing this work, these practical lessons relate to community and county management, and substance use prevention, treatment and recovery in rural America.
Information for communities includes strategies for fiscal management during the opioid crisis, workforce development, expanding broadband access, bridging transportation gaps to improve substance use services and overcoming economic challenges, among others.
Sections on prevention, treatment and recovery include many cutting-edge topics, including community driven prevention solutions, strengthening rural healthcare networks for persons seeking treatment, and engaging faith communities. Such field-based solutions are needed because much of our current drug treatment infrastructure does not extend into rural communities and counties.
On hand from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to launch the new Guide were Dr. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health; Dr. Jerome Adams, surgeon general of the United States; Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use; and Brian LeClair, deputy administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration. Each described work being done by his/her respective offices to address the rural drug crisis.
Partners that contributed to the Gguide also were represented at the event. Among others, these included the Addiction Policy Forum, the National Association of Counties, the American Farm Bureau Foundation, the National Rural Health Association, and Faces and Voices of Recovery.
Our hats are off to Carroll, ONDCP Senior Advisor for Rural Affairs Anne Hazlett, ONDCP panel moderator Betty-Ann Bryce, and the entire staff of ONDCP for leading this very important work. Rural communities and counties greatly appreciate these essential efforts.
Paper copies of the guide are available from ONDCP, and electronic copies will be available soon.