By Ray Atkinson
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recently released a new tool to provide resources for responding to the rural opioid epidemic. The Rural Community Action Guide, a compilation of background information, best practices and recommended action steps, was developed as a resource to help community leaders address drug addiction in rural areas.
The American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union’s Farm Town Strong campaign was featured in a chapter of the guide titled, “Taking Action to Address Substance Use Disorder in the Farming Community,” and the organizations’ Morning Consult research polling was cited prominently in the report.
ONDCP introduced the guide at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds on Friday, Jan. 31. The event featured remarks from Jim Carroll, ONDCP director, and panels with community partners and administration officials including U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.
Dale Moore, executive vice president of AFBF, represented Farm Bureau along with other community partners on a panel titled, “Empowering Local Leaders.”
“I grew up in a small town, and I can tell you that stigma is real in rural communities,” Moore said. “It definitely has an impact. People don’t want to talk about substance use disorder; it becomes the topic of rumors.
“At AFBF we knew anecdotally that opioid addiction was devastating rural communities, and we started having conversations with National Farmers Union, looking for ways to work together to address this crisis,” Moore said. “Our first step was to commission a research poll to dig deeper and learn more. The poll showed that three in four farmers had been impacted by opioid abuse, and that stigma was a major barrier to overcoming opioid addiction.
“We launched our Farm Town Strong awareness and education campaign in 2018 with the goal of farmers helping farmers. We know that farmers understand one another in ways that others can’t, and they are uniquely positioned to help each other,” he said.
Moore said that the campaign has helped spark conversations throughout the Farm Bureau and Farmers Union state and county networks, giving the issue a voice and helping to break down stigma. The Farm Town Strong website has also been a valuable resource to farm families and communities, with information on prevention, treatment, disposal and hotline information for families in crisis.
“What we want people to know is that there is hope, and that the strength of our towns can overcome this crisis,” Moore said. “That’s the overriding message of Farm Town Strong.”
Ray Atkinson is director of strategic communications for the American Farm Bureau Federation.