Vilsack leads work on rural drug epidemic

The abuse of heroin and related prescription pain medicine has reached epidemic levels in the U.S. and Ag Secretary Vilsack is tasked with leading the federal response in President Obama’s “Rural America Opioid Initiative.”

At a House subcommittee hearing this month, Vilsack was asked about the shortage of treatment for drug abuse in rural America. He replied, “There is a sense of isolation in rural American in many remote areas in terms of the ability to access services. Seventy-six percent of the shortages in mental illness and substance abuse services are in rural areas. So, even if you want to have help, you can’t find help.”

Vilsack said it’ll take more than a government approach, “The communities are not equipped to provide the level of support, recovery support, long-term. Which is why I think it’s going to be important to engage the faith-based community in particular in creating an environment in which AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings and so forth can take place.”

The administration has money to deal with the epidemic in the recent budget deal:  $400 million dollars, an increase of more than $100 million from the previous year. Vilsack grew up watching his adoptive mother suffer with addiction, “You mentioned my circumstance. My mother was addicted to both alcohol and prescription drugs. My mother did try to commit suicide. And…..I can call up those images right now.”

Vilsack says mortality rates are going down around the world but for white males in rural areas, it is on the rise because of “poisoning and suicide.”

AUDIO:  Tom Vilsack questioned by Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky – February 11, 2016





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