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U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a partnership to create addiction recovery transitional housing in rural communities.
This is welcome news, as Latino and rural resident opioid overdoses rise across the nation.
Particularly, Latino mortality rates for opioid overdoses rose 52.5% from 2014 to 2016. This is compared to a 45.8% rise among whites.
“We know that the opioid crisis has hit rural communities hard, and we need to leverage all possible partnerships to support these communities,” Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, said in a press release.
“Housing plays a vital part in the recovery process for those living with opioid use disorders.”
USDA & HHS Partnership
The USDA & HHS corroborated their partnership with an official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Nonprofit organizations will be able to buy homes from USDA and transform them to transitional housing for people recovering from opioid abuse.
USDA’s Rural Development and HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will organize efforts to sell USDA’s Real Estate Owned (REO) single-family housing properties at a reduction to non-profit organizations that provide housing, treatment, job training and other key services for people in substance misuse treatment and recovery.
Additionally, this will improve the two organizations’ official partnership.
This all started in 2018 with SAMHSA’s supplementing USDA Cooperative Extension grants to increase technical assistance and training on opioid use disorder prevention and treatment.
USDA Progressive Efforts
In rural areas, substance abuse has been prevalent for a long time.
Rural adults have higher rates of alcohol abuse, tobacco use, and methamphetamine use. Prescription drug abuse and heroin use has grown in towns of every size, according to Rural Health Information Hub.
USDA is trying to address opioid abuse as a nationwide public health emergency.
They already have infrastructure in place for prevention, treatment, and recovery. Partnerships are driving driving innovation in rural areas, too.
In 2018, USDA collaborated with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to launch a White House Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group. They are improving the coordination of federal resources in rural America.
Furthermore, the USDA established the Community Opioid Misuse Toolbox that includes a:
- Community Resource Guide—a directory of federal resources to help rural communities address the opioid crisis.
- Community Assessment Tool—an interactive database to help community leaders assess the opioid epidemic in their regions.
Loans and grants to help grow rural economies and job are also provided by USDA Rural Development.
This includes help support infrastructure improvements and business development. It also helps housing, schools, public safety, and healthcare. Even high-speed Internet e-Connectivity in rural areas benefits.
Efforts to Address Rural Housing & Opioids
Whyy.org wrote a great piece on the value or recovery housing.
Cities and states are doing more to address these rising health issues for Latino and all people:
- Major steps toward Affordable housing in Austin, Texas
- Colorado City Could Mandate More Affordable Housing
- The Outside-the-Box Fix for Denver’s Affordable Housing Crisis
- San Antonio’s Daring New Polices for Affordable housing
- The Epic Revitalization of a Latino Neighborhood from Housing to Social Change
Researchers in San Antonio also are educating first responders in Bexar County (60% Latino) how to identify and reverse opioid overdose.
“In Bexar County, deaths attributed to opioids peaked in 2011, when 145 people died. The toll dipped to double digits over the years until 2015, when it surged 50 percent to 108 fatal overdoses,” according to the San Antonio Express News. “The county’s fatality rate of 5.7 overdoses per 100,000 residents is the third highest in the state.”