Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Agriculture secretary holding town hall Thursday in Southwest Virginia on Appalachian drug abuse

In March, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he would hold town- hall meetings in rural areas hit particularly hard by drug abuse—New Hampshire, Missouri, Nevada, Mississippi and Appalachia—to "bring together local and state government partners, the health community and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the issue and discuss possible solutions." One of those town hall meetings will be held Thursday in Abingdon, Va., just north of Bristol. Other locations have yet to be announced. (Tennessean photo by Holly Fletcher: Sign posted at gas station)

"Vilsack said establishing a 'new natural resources economy,' such as a local and regional food system, in the Tennessee-Virginia border area will help revitalize an economically depressed area," Holly Fletcher reports for The Tennessean in Nashville. "The area has a natural resource advantage that could support a biomass industry or new approaches to conservation that creates new streams of revenue for landowners."

"Vilsack said he wants to see 'different ways of approaching folks who get crossed with the law' in addition to more treatment centers—both brick-and-mortar and telemedicine locations—and community resources," Fletcher writes. "States have an 'opportunity and responsibility' to upgrade monitoring databases to work across state lines to help clinicians and law enforcement alike track potential abuse, Vilsack said. Access to treatment also is a problem. There are about 2.2 million people across the country with a prescription painkiller addiction but only about half have access to treatment," said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.

Tennessee had 1,263 overdose deaths in 2014, up from 1,166 in 2013 and 1,094 in 2012, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Virginia had 1,013 in 2015, up from 992 in 2014 and 690 in 2010, says the Virginia Department of Health. Kentucky, which borders the two states, had 1,087 overdose deaths in 2014, up from 1,010 in 2013, says the state Office of Drug Control Policy.

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