Grant to Help Fight Opioid Epidemic in Rural Arkansas

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal grant has been approved to help fight the opioid epidemic in rural areas of Arkansas.

U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack, and Bruce Westerman, welcomed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announcement Tuesday that it is awarding a grant to the University of Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service aimed at helping prevent opioid abuse among Arkansans in rural communities. 

“The opioid crisis has been devastating and has resulted in a dramatic spike in our state’s overdose rate. Residents of rural areas are sometimes the most likely to lack access to the care and services needed to treat addiction. This grant will help providers and patients find creative ways to deliver treatments and prevent misuse and abuse of opioids,” Boozman said.

“The opioid crisis is destroying lives and families across our state, and it’s time we fought back. This grant is a good step forward that will promote education and partnerships with healthcare providers in our rural communities to help them prevent abuse and recover from this crisis,” said Cotton.

“For each opioid prescription in Arkansas, 114 pills on average are administered to a single individual, making our state’s prescription rate second in the nation. But in rural America, addiction treatment can be hard to administer, and the same tactics that work in urban areas aren’t as effective in places like the 1st District. A bill I introduced this Congress, the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act, is a strong complement to this grant and would prioritize funding for more projects like this that address addiction and recovery in rural Arkansas,” Crawford said.

“The opioid crisis a real threat to all Arkansas families, especially those living in our rural communities. In order to access the care and treatment opioid users need, this grant will help provide innovative ways to prevent opioid abuse and treat those struggling with it, so Arkansans can have victory over this drug epidemic,” said Hill.

“In 2015, nearly 400 Arkansans died of an opioid overdose. Every year, that number continues to rise. Our state simply cannot look the other way. I am confident this grant will provide rural residents of Arkansas the care and treatment they need to combat this epidemic,” Womack said.

“The opioid crisis continues to wreck lives across the country and at home in Arkansas. This grant will play a significant role in ensuring Arkansans have access to quality care that can help them overcome addiction. We must continue to find ways to combat this public health crisis and this grant is one tool in the arsenal,” said Westerman.

This project is being funded through NIFA’s Rural Health and Safety Education (RHSE) Competitive Grant Program. The Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service is being awarded a grant of $321,912 that will allow it to partner with a network of health providers and volunteers to develop complementary and alternative pain management interventions with the goal of preventing opioid abuse in rural communities.

In 2016, Arkansas saw the number of opioid-related deaths rise from 287 to 335, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Arkansas Health Department Director Nate Smith reported to state lawmakers that 235.9 million pills were sold across the state that year. Arkansas is in the top twenty percent of states that prescribe the most painkillers per capita.


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