White House Administration Equipping Faith Leaders with Tools for Action in the Rural Addiction Crisis

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New tools to address addiction in rural America from the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

As the Nation’s “Drug Czar,” I regularly travel around the country to understand how the addiction crisis is affecting local communities. People often ask me, “What can I do?” As a person of faith, my first response is simple: “Pray.” However, in my belief, I am also reminded that my faith is brought to life with action.

Perhaps nowhere is the need for action more evident than in rural America — especially now. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented rural communities with new challenges. Jobs in fields such as manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism have seen a significant economic impact in recent months, and many who work in jobs in these sectors do not have the luxury of working remotely.

The impact of addiction is great, but resources are few. In 2018, more than 67,000 Americans died from a drug overdose. Many of those deaths occurred in rural America. A survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union, two leading farm organizations, found that nearly 50 percent of adults living in rural America have been directly impacted by the opioid crisis.

One reason rural America is suffering is because there is a significant gap in many communities in the services needed to help people struggling with an addiction get healthy and stay well. I have seen this firsthand in my travels throughout rural America to places like Wise county, a rural county in southwest Virginia. This spring, I met with leadership from the Health Wagon, a faith-based clinic that provides critical care for this mountainous region that has been hard hit by poverty and addiction. Beyond its core mission of primary care, the Health Wagon has started providing medication-assisted treatment …

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