The following is a press release from AFBF. Opioid addiction is a serious problem and data is showing it’s even more insidious in rural areas across the country, including Montana. According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, right here at home the rate of prescription drug overdose deaths has doubled to more than 700 since the year 2000. Montana falls right below the national average with a rate of 5.4 deaths per 100,000 people due to opioid use.
Perhaps the most tragic statistic: in 2015, over 15% of high school students in Montana reported having taken a prescription medication without a prescription in their lifetime.
As you’ll read below, research is showing that opioid addiction is hitting rural America hard and the agriculture community harder. We know that farm and ranch families are the heartbeat of rural Montana; keeping that heartbeat pumping strong should be a priority for us all.
As farming communities face mounting challenges with the nation’s opioid epidemic, the nation’s two largest general farm organizations are teaming up to confront the issue. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and National Farmers Union (NFU) announced a new campaign, “Farm Town Strong,” to raise awareness of the crisis’ impact on farming communities. The campaign will also provide resources and information to help farm communities and encourage farmer-to-farmer support to overcome the crisis.
The groups have launched a new website, FarmTownStrong.org, to provide easy access to information and resources that can help struggling farm families and rural communities.
The Farm Town Strong campaign comes on the heels of a recent survey commissioned by AFBF and NFU that highlighted how the opioid epidemic has hit farmers and farm workers especially hard. While just under half of rural Americans say that they, a family member or friend have been directly impacted by opioid addiction, for farmers and farm workers it’s 74 percent. A strong majority of respondents also support increasing public awareness of anti-opioid resources and reducing the stigma that surrounds addiction to help solve the opioid crisis.
“Farm country has been hit hard by the opioid crisis – even harder than rural America as a whole, or big cities,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It’s going to take everyone working together to combat this crisis to make a difference. That’s why Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union are teaming up to show unity on this issue and encourage farm families to help their neighbors. If you or a family member has been affected by opioid addiction, it’s important to talk about it so that others will know they are not fighting this alone.”
“Opioid addiction—along with all of its consequences—is a silent, but very real, crisis for our farming communities,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The lack of services, treatment and support exacerbates the issue in rural areas, and the negative stigma associated with addiction makes it hard for farmers to discuss the problem. Too often, those struggling with addiction and their family members don’t seek the support they need. Through the Farm Town Strong campaign, we’re tackling this crisis head-on by encouraging more dialogue, more information sharing, and more farmer-to-farmer engagement.”
More information on the campaign can be found at FarmTownStrong.org.
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