The presidents of the nation’s two largest general farm organizations visited the “Prescribed to Death” opioid memorial in Washington, D.C., in a show of unity to address the national opioid epidemic that is disproportionately affecting farming communities.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall and National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson joined Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The three toured the exhibit, which memorializes the 22,000 people who died from a prescription opioid overdose in 2015.
“Rural Americans are often ashamed or embarrassed to talk about family members who struggle with addiction,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “We know this is a difficult conversation. But we all need to talk about this problem to get help for those we care about. And people who are struggling with addiction need to know it’s all right to ask for help. Our rural communities are strong enough to overcome this struggle.”
“The only way farming communities are going to overcome the opioid epidemic is if local communities and local governments make it a priority,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The attention on it can’t just come from the news, it needs to be something we talk about in our daily conversation. It needs to be talked about openly, from mother to son, from family to family, and from neighbor to neighbor. Until we get to a point where everyone is comfortable talking about the issue, understands it is a crisis for their communities, and treats the addiction as a disease, the opioid epidemic is going to continue to take far too many lives.”
AFBF and NFU are confronting the opioid epidemic in farming communities through their “Farm Town Strong” campaign. Addiction experts and government officials have credited the program for raising awareness of the crisis in farming communities, providing resources and information to help those communities, and encouraging farmer-to-farmer cooperation to overcome the crisis.
The two organizations’ survey from late 2017 demonstrates the opioid crisis’ disproportionate effects on farmers and farmworkers compared to other rural Americans. While just under half of rural Americans say they have been directly impacted by opioid abuse, 74 percent of farmers and farmworkers say they have. The survey also indicated that a strong majority of respondents believe increasing public education surrounding resources and reducing the stigma around opioid addiction would help solve the opioid crisis.
More information can be found at FarmTownStrong.org.
Assistant to the Secretary Anne Hazlett Statement on Prescribed to Death Opioid Memorial
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett visited the Prescribed to Death opioid memorial at President’s Park. The exhibit features 22,000 pills memorializing the 22,000 Americans who died of a prescription drug overdose in 2016.
Hazlett issued the following statement:
“Over the course of the last year, I have seen firsthand the impact of the opioid epidemic on rural America. From east to west, this issue is devastating rural families and creating tremendous stress on local leaders in small towns and rural places. However, in the face of this darkness, I have also been inspired and encouraged by the transformative power of this challenge. I have seen that for some communities, the tragedy of this issue has become a powerful catalyst for broader change – bringing leaders together to tackle difficult and underlying challenges upstream. With a renewed focus on the power of community, these places are reclaiming their identity and casting a new vision for the future built on prosperity. In that transformation, I find great hope and a huge opportunity for a bright future in rural America.”
At the direction of President Trump, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been keenly focused on addressing the opioid crisis in rural communities. So far, the Department has convened regional roundtables to hear firsthand accounts of the impact of the crisis and effective strategies for response in rural communities; launched a webpage on opioid misuse in rural America featuring resources for rural communities and individuals facing the crisis; and prioritized investments in two key grant programs to address the crisis in rural places. For more information about these efforts, visit the USDA rural opioid misuse webpage at www.usda.gov/opioids.