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A federal agency stands ready to help Nebraska to fight opioid abuse

November 19, 2018

LINCOLN - A federal agency has gotten into the fight against the national opioid epidemic and it might not be the one you suspect.

The United States Department of Agriculture hopes to form a strong coalition in Nebraska to keep opioid abuse from getting out of hand here.

Rural Development State Director Karl Elmshaeuser says the first step is to raise awareness.

“I think part of that is to make sure that we’re not ignoring the issue and to make sure that it doesn’t increase or spread,” Elmshaeuser tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And so, by doing that, we’re taking care of it as they are on a national basis, we’re participating in that as well.”

Opioid abuse has grown into a national epidemic, spreading to rural America with a vengeance. The growing menace of becoming addicted to various pain killers has set off alarm bells throughout state and federal governments. As abuse spread beyond the city limits, the USDA has gotten involved in the fight.

Often, patients become addicted after being prescribed an opioid to relieve pain. Some farmers, injured while working, have been prescribed an opioid and have become addicted.

Elmshaeuser says communication remains the biggest obstacle to effective treatment. He says it is sometimes difficult to know where the problem is and to target the resources the USDA has to fight it. Information about the potential risks of opioids is being distributed with outreach efforts specifically targeting K-12 schools as well as college campuses.

While opioid abuse is not yet an epidemic in Nebraska, its spread nationally has raised concerns.

“There are definitely challenges in the rural areas, because of limited resources,” according to Elmshaeuser. “How do they collaborate with that? And who can provide them services or resources to get the job done?”

Elmshaeuser says the key is spend the money the USDA has wisely.

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