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NDSU Extension program works to prevent opioid misuse

NDSU Extension has partnered with South Dakota State University Extension to provide services that prevent opioid misuse in rural communities, particularly in the farming and ranching industry. The program is called Strengthening the Heartland.

Organizers received a $563,825 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and a $319,926 Rural Health and Safety Education grant two years ago to carry out that work.

“With opioid misuse a rising problem in North Dakota, this grant allows us to provide the resources and tools to individuals in rural communities who may not have access to health care and resources,” says Meagan Scott Hoffman, a 4-H youth development specialist in NDSU Extension’s Center for 4-H Youth Development and one of the project’s leaders.

“Overall, we are striving to empower and equip the citizens of North Dakota with the tools needed to address opioid misuse,” she said. “It is our team’s hope that we can work together to promote rural prosperity and wellness across the Dakotas.”

Research shows that in North Dakota, 65.9 percent of people who abuse prescription opioids obtained them from family or friends. In the U.S., drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths, and opioids are the most common drug used.

One concern when addressing substance misuse is access to mental health care. Rural areas routinely experience inadequate access to services. In more than 90 percent of counties in North Dakota and South Dakota, the number of mental health-care providers is not adequate based on need.

The project offers resources such as printed material, a website, webinars and two programs. One program is for adults and the other is for youth.

The “Opioid Public Health Crisis” program is for adults. The one-hour presentation addresses opioid misuse, risk factors and suggested prevention methods.

The program for youth is “This is (Not) About Drugs.” The one-hour, media-based presentation is targeted toward youth in grades six to 12. The program helps raise awareness of the risks of misusing prescription opioids and encourages youth to seek alternatives to substances when dealing with stress.

Individuals including school counselors, counseling and university professionals, college students and other individuals who have interest in or connection to the issue are trained to present these programs.

The universities’ efforts are making an impact.

In two years, the This is (Not) About Drugs program reached 2,086 youth in 30 schools across North Dakota. The 1,424 North Dakota youth who completed a survey assessing their knowledge before and after participating in the program reported a 15.2 percent increase in their knowledge of prescription opioid misuse after participating.

The Opioid Public Health Crisis program has reached 287 adults in seven locations across North Dakota, including Williston, Minot, St. John, Devils Lake, Bismarck, Fargo and Lisbon.

NDSU and SDSU Extension recently were awarded a $1,081,644 SAMHSA grant and a $392,171 RHSE grant to continue the work on opioid misuse prevention for another two years.

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North Dakota State University
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