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Opioid Crisis Resources

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GIA's Rural Aging Initiative includes original resources on the opioid crisis sweeping across America's rural communities. 

Heartache, Pain, and Hope: Rural Communities, Older People, and the Opioid Crisis: An Introduction for Funders. This document brings a fresh perspective to the national opioid epidemic, focusing overdue attention on the damage to rural communities, particularly the lives of older people, and describing proven programs, innovative partnerships, policy recommendations, and scientific and medical responses for governments, communities, nonprofits, and philanthropies. 

Raising Awareness and Seeking Solutions to the Opioid Epidemic’s Impact on Rural Older Adults is a research survey prepared for GIA by William F. Benson and Nancy Aldrich of Health Benefits ABCs. It offers an examination of the research and statistical background and evidence surrounding the opioid epidemic in America and is a companion piece to Heartache, Pain and Hope

Resources, Reports, and Articles  

In order to provide further insight into this growing crisis, here are a number of resources that dig deep on the impact to rural communities and the lives of older people.

Opioid Crisis Takes a Toll on Rural Older Adults Next Avenue reports on the crisis from the perspective of the needs and concerns of rural older adults, with comments from John Feather of GIA and Charlotte Haberaecker of Lutheran Services in America.

Opioid Epidemic Practical Toolkit: Helping Faith and Community Leaders Bring Hope and Healing to Our Communities This toolkit, developed by the HHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, contains practical steps for organizations on a number of prevention and restoration strategies. Includes how-tos for building community capacity to respond, rebuilding and restoring lives, and supporting recovery programs.

How to Stop the Deadliest Drug Overdose Crisis in American History Close to two-thirds of of drug overdose deaths in America are linked to opioids, reports Vox Media, looking at strategies to beat the current epidemic and prevent continuing crisis as we move into the future. 

One Force Lacking In Fight Against Opioid Addiction In Rural California: Doctors Addiction health care providers in rural areas are often in short supply, reports California HealthLine. Long travel distances often leads to inconsistent recovery. This article looks at rural addiction treatment needs and provider concerns in being involved in such care, particularly with medication-assisted options.

Two of a Farmer’s Three Children Overdosed. What of the Third — and the Land? Opioid drug abuse is impacting agricultural and rural communities as never before with tremendous increases in drug overdoses. Threats to generational ties, the future of rural agriculture, and community connection are growing stronger as this epidemic continues. This New York Times article profiles the experience of one family and farming community, and the unique impediments to prevention and recovery they face.  

Treating the Rural Opioid Epidemic This policy brief from the National Rural Health Association focuses on strategies for rural public health in addressing abuse of prescription and non-prescription opioids. Key remedies to this problem are offered, including fully funding rural mental health infrastructure and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). A range of data is also provided on the need for treatment, availability of treatment, and success rates of treatment options. 

Let’s Go for a Win on Opioids This column from David Brooks of the New York Times offers recommendations for a strategic White House initiative to combat opiate addiction. 

Pharmacies Thrive Selling Opioids For Depressed Small Town Pain Small, rural communities across America are facing substantial economic downturns, yet many of these same towns have multiple thriving pharmacies. This article from Kaiser Health News details the example of one Kentucky community, Clay County, which has experienced staggering numbers of prescriptions for painkillers, almost enough for 150 does per resident. Health factors behind these numbers are analyzed and the cause and effect of the many forms of pain at the foundation of opioid addiction. 

Bringing Medical Help to Rural Areas Overwhelmed by Opioid Abuse Innovative solutions are popping up from medical schools and teaching hospitals to help small-town physicians treat opioid addictions in their communities. This article looks at steps the academic medical community is taking, like training rural physicians and other providers to qualify for waivers to prescribe buprenorphine for medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Another Reason for Missing Workers: Opioids In this article, economists evaluate the opioid epidemic's ripple through the American economy. Of particular interest are statistics on the labor force participation rate, which has continued to decline despite a stronger economic climate. Data suggests fear of failing pre-employment drug screening as a key factor in this decline, as many who grapple with opioid addiction don't even apply for work. 

Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic: Solutions and Support for Grandfamilies Millions of American children are being raised by extended family members rather than parents. Research shows parental substance use is the most common reason behind formation of these "grandfamilies". Generations United offers this report about these families, and the unique social, financial, physical and mental health challenges they face. Includes key findings on funding child welfare and care, legal support recommendations, and best practices for serving all members of the grandfamily-children, parents and caregivers.

Alone on the Range, Seniors Often Lack Access to Health Care This article from NY Times columnist Paula Span (The New Old Age) looks at what it's like to grow older in rural America, through first-hand accounts from those facing it's daily challenges, including access to emergency care, palliative care, and medical transportation. The article provides results from a study comparing the health of rural and urban dwellers, noting greater reliance on prescription drugs in rural populations.

Opioids Can Derail The Lives Of Older People, Too Dependence on pain-relieving opioids is often a big surprise to older adults, many of whom never expected to be faced with an addiction of any kind. This article from NPR profiles one man’s experience with opioid addiction and recovery, after an operation left him with chronic pain. Includes data on the rate of hospitalizations related to opioid overuse in older adults, and statistics from a recent Medicare study on opioid prescriptions dispensed as part of a hospital discharge.

Extreme Opioid Use and Doctor Shopping Still Plague Medicare This article from NPR delves into a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General (IG), regarding opioid abuse within Medicare's prescription drug program Part D. The report reveals a serious issue of heavy use and abuse of painkillers amongst Part D beneficiaries. The findings include geographic prescribing patterns, data on the high number of beneficiaries who appear to be involved in doctor shopping, and information on questionable prescribing patterns by some health care providers.

Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use  In the context of the growing opioid problem, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched an Opioids Action Plan in early 2016, asking the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to convene a committee to update the state of the science on pain research, care, and education. The result is this Consensus Study Report which identified actions the FDA and others can take to respond to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on informing FDA’s development of a formal method for incorporating individual and societal considerations into its risk-benefit framework for opioid approval and monitoring. 

Mental health: The next farm crisis in rural America As recently as 2015, statistics show one in five residents of nonmetropolitan counties in the United States are dealing with mental health concerns, with these numbers on the rise due to struggles in the farm economy. Providing mental health care in these rural communities is complicated by three key challenges: accessibility, availability and acceptability of treatment. This article delves into strategies to address each one, including treatment methods for opioid addictions in locations with limited access to clinics. 

Making Investments In Rural Health: What Are The New And Old Challenges?  This Health Affairs post from Allen Smart takes a look at some of the challenges philanthropy faces in being effective in rural America. The post includes information on how to combine urban funder's experience with the perspective of local staff and leaders to bring meaningful impact.

Older Addicts Squeezed by Opioid Epidemic This article from The Pew Charitable Trust examines the barriers older adults face in getting help for alcohol and opioid abuse, including younger addicts being prioritized for treatment, reluctance to admit their problem due to feelings of shame, and a lack of Medicare coverage for treatment. It also looks at the staggering statistics around this issue, particularly those involving Medicare beneficiaries.

National Council on Seniors Drug & Alcohol Rehab This non-profit organization's mission is to educate and provide addiction assistance to older adults as well as caregivers and family members with concerns. Through Rehabnet.com they provide information, resources and treatment for care providers and older adults battling addiction and related conditions.

The Opioid Menace This special report from AARP delves into the numbers behind addiction to prescription drugs among older adults in America. Includes compelling data on hospitalization rates due to opioid abuse, the numbers around opioid overdose related deaths, and the root behind much of this addiction - legitimately prescribed painkillers. 

Rural Opioid Prevention and Treatment Strategies: The Experience in Four States This working paper from Maine Rural Health Research Center looks at strategies being implemented by four states with large rural populations who are working to address opioid use disorders (OUDs). Residents in rural communities battling OUDs tend to have numerous socioeconomic barriers to accessing treatment and recovery resources, making the example of effective efforts in North Carolina, Vermont, Washington State, and Indiana vital to making progress across the country.

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