The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc all over the nation and the victims are from every walk of life, however, rural areas are facing unique challenges.
The type of work that is common in these areas, such as manufacturing, mining, and farming, lead to injuries that require opioid prescriptions and thus addiction, according to an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Anne Hazlett.
There are also few rehabilitation centers where these types of injuries could be treated alternatively. Hazlett says that the “dire economic circumstances” in rural areas can cause depression, which leads to self-medicating behaviors. The people in these rural areas do not have access to urban-quality mental health centers and this has exacerbated the problem.
Hazlett said the epidemic tends to effect small towns that have experienced a decline in productivity and a strain on resources.
Hazlett participated in the Opioid Misuse in Rural Nevada Roundtable, on Friday, March 23, 2018. Nevada has seen a 17 percent drop in overdoses between 2010 and 2016, however, according to the USDA, there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of hospitalizations.
Nevada ranks 36 in the country for the ratio of opioid prescriptions per 100 patients (94:100).
Hazlett was in Nevada as a representative from President Donald Trump’s administration. The 50-member panel discussed treatment, prevention, and recovery. Last week, Trump proposed initiatives that would reduce the demand of opioids and overprescribing: Cut off the supply and focus on recovery from addiction.
Sheriff Sharon Wehrly discussed the opioid-related issues dealt with in Nye County. Since 2015, there have been 27 opioid-related deaths. From the beginning of 2018, there have been 60 suicide-threat calls to 9-1-1. Most of the calls involved people with a history of drug abuse. Wehrly expressed that there is something seriously wrong with these statistics.
Nye County recently held a drug drop-off event. Residents could discard medications that were outdated or no longer needed. Forty pounds of medication were collected through the event.
Hazlett was in Nevada as part of an effort by the USDA to created partnerships with states and join forces. “We believe strongly that this is much more than a health issue for rural America, this is an issue of rural prosperity.”
She has planned similar events in Pennsylvania, Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Maine. The goal is to learn together and assemble a toolkit to help other communities with specific needs. Of the panel, Hazlett said there was a lot of experience, commitment, and passion. People showed their dedication for their communities and the prosperity of the state.
By Jeanette Smith
The Las Vegas Sun: ‘This is an issue of rural prosperity’: Nevada roundtable spotlights opioid epidemic in small communities
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