Friday, January 15, 2016

Agriculture Secretary to lead effort to battle rural struggles with heroin, suicide, finances, health

President Obama has appointed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to lead an effort to battle struggles in rural areas with increased heroin use, suicide rates, financial stress, and decreased physical and mental health, Juliet Eilperin reports for The Washington Post. Heroin and opiate use—which has moved from urban areas to rural ones—kills about 30,000 people a year, and heroin-related deaths increased 28 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Vilsack will unveil the new initiative during a town hall discussion today at Ohio State University, "where he will be discussing the expansion of the administration’s rural-development efforts in 11 counties experiencing persistent poverty in the part of Appalachia that extends into southern Ohio,"  Eilperin writes. "In an interview Thursday, Vilsack said that while any long-term solution to the problem will have to be pursued by the next president, the current administration could help develop a comprehensive strategy and elevate the issue in the American consciousness."

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have shown a willingness to expand federal support to tackle heroin and opiate use, Eilperin writes. "The budget agreement struck last month provided the administration with more than $400 million to address the epidemic, an increase of more than $100 million from the previous year. It also cut language barring the use of federal funds for needle-exchange programs, a move that many public health advocates had sought." (Read more)

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