LETTER TO THE EDITOR: October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

Denise Lovelady

Substance abuse can have devastating effects on American families and communities. To promote the importance of ending and preventing substance abuse, President Trump declared October 2018 National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. This month is dedicated to raising awareness about the risks of substance abuse to improve individual and community health. President Trump is calling on Americans to engage in local prevention activities and efforts to increase awareness all month long.

In support of the president’s call, I want to highlight some new USDA tools that will be useful to rural prevention efforts. USDA recently launched a Community Assessment Tool designed to help rural communities address the opioid crisis. The tool showcases data that details how rural areas have been impacted by opioid misuse. USDA’s Community Assessment Tool is free and available to the public. It can be accessed on USDA’s Rural Opioid Misuse Webpage (https://www.usda.gov/topics/opioids) or at opioidmisusetool.norc.org.

In the next couple of weeks, USDA plans to unveil a Community Resource Matrix. This resource matrix will provide a comprehensive picture of the many federal programs available to help address substance abuse issues. USDA is also incorporating key lessons learned and model practices discovered during opioid misuse roundtables from across the country this year into a Community Action Guide. At the end of the month, a Community Economic Impact Report showcasing the economic impact of opioid misuse in six states — Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Tennessee — is anticipated.

The data and perspective provided by these new resources will help community members, leaders, researchers, and policymakers addressing opioid misuse at the local level understand which actions will be most effective. Sharing practical tools for building strong and resilient rural communities is a key part of USDA’s mission to invest in substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery capacity.

Several prevention activities and awareness events are taking place this month across our region. On Oct. 22, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett will visit Maryland to give a key note address at the 2018 Maryland Rural Health Conference. She’ll discuss opioid misuse in rural America and plans to learn more about prevention efforts working in Maryland.

The last Saturday of this month — Oct. 27 — is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration, this event provides a safe way to dispose of your unwanted, unused, or expired prescription drugs. I plan to participate in a Take Back Day event near my home. I encourage each of you to do the same. You can find a collection event near you by visiting https://takebackday.dea.gov/.

You may have already noticed, but “Going Purple” is quickly spreading across Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Delaware. The “Going Purple” substance abuse awareness campaign is engaging communities and youth to stand against substance abuse through education about the dangers of substance abuse. Consider connecting with the movement in your area. Learn more by visiting https://theherrenproject.org/going-purple/.

I echo President Trump’s belief that through united advocacy and increased awareness America can again cultivate health, wellness, and prosperity. Thank you for doing your part this month to raise awareness and support local substance abuse prevention efforts. As always, my office is here to serve you. Please reach out to me about how USDA Rural Development can support substance abuse prevention efforts in your community.

Denise Lovelady is USDA Rural Development state director for Maryland and Delaware.

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