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Rural Opioid "Army" Gathers

Stand and be counted: HRSA Administrator Dr. George Sigounas and agency rural chief Tom Morris (center) greeted some 400 rural opioid activists and grantees at the Rockville Hilton on Tuesday, June 18 to discuss lessons learned, pending grant opportunities and the urgent need to train more first responders, clinicians and civilians alike to use naloxone to cut the death rate in distant communities.
Stand and be counted: HRSA Administrator Dr. George Sigounas and agency rural chief Tom Morris (center) greeted some 400 rural opioid activists and grantees at the Rockville Hilton on Tuesday, June 18 to discuss lessons learned, pending grant opportunities and the urgent need to train more first responders, clinicians and civilians alike to use naloxone to cut the death rate in distant communities.

 

"Often, the first responder is another drug user," said Maddy Magnuson, director of Harm Reduction for the Health Equity Alliance of Maine, which has fought for wider distribution of  naloxone kits in her heavily rural state and passage of a Good Samaritan law HRSA Exit Disclaimer to shield those who administer the lifesaving drug against liability or arrest.

 

Maddy Magnuson: "Nobody should be dying in America from an opioid overdose."

Maddy Magnuson: "Nobody should be dying in America from an opioid overdose."

 

Every day, 130 people die from opioid misuse  nationwide -- and the CDC reports that drug-related death rates are now 45 percent higher in rural communities than in urban areas, for lack of treatment facilities. Dr. Sigounas told a packed ballroom that sharp increases in funding for rural opioid intervention have resulted in the largest budget authorizations in history for the agency's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP), and more is coming.

The event brings together grantees from four FORHP programs -- Rural Communities Opioid Response; Rural Health Opioid; the Evidence-Based Tele-Behavioral Health Network; and Substance Abuse Treatment -- all with the goal of addressing the crisis in rural America through reduction in morbidity and mortality.  In FY 2019, over $135 million is being invested  in support of the cause.

The conference, Responding to the Rural Substance Use Crisis, is among the largest gatherings of its kind and will run through June 20.

Date Last Reviewed:  June 2019