NDSU Extension Working to Prevent Opioid Misuse in Rural Areas

Farming and ranching often involve the entire family, so when the farm or ranch faces challenges, the stress affects everyone in the family. These stressors are risk factors for prescription opioid misuse.

NDSU Extension and South Dakota State University Extension have partnered to provide services that prevent opioid misuse in rural areas through a program called Strengthening the Heartland (STH). They received nearly $884,000 in federal grants 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, NDSU 4-H youth development specialist and one of STH’s leaders.

STH offers resources such as printed material, a website, webinars and two programs. One program, the Opioid Public Health Crisis, is for adults. It addresses opioid misuse, risk factors and suggested prevention methods.

The program for youth is This is (Not) About Drugs. It is targeted toward youth in grades six to 12. It helps raise awareness of the risks of misusing prescription opioids and encourages youth to seek alternatives to substances when dealing with stress.

In two years, the youth program has reached 2,086 youth in 30 North Dakota schools. The 1,424 North Dakota youth who completed a survey assessing their knowledge before and after the program reported a 15.2% increase in their knowledge of prescription opioid misuse.

“I really enjoyed this particular presentation because it was not like others where the message to students is to stay away from drugs; rather it took a more informative approach: what are drugs, the types of drugs people use and why people use drugs,” says Lupita España, school counselor for Ray (N.D.) Public Schools.

The adult program has reached 287 people in seven locations across North Dakota.

NDSU and SDSU Extension recently were awarded grants totaling $1,473,815 to continue their work for another two years.


Megan Scott Hoffman, 701-231-7964, meagan.scott@ndsu.edu


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