Given the unique risk factors associated with the agriculture industry, conditions are right for significant increases in prescription opioid misuse in ND and SD if more prevention efforts are not instituted. Strengthening the Heartland (STH) is dedicated to providing opioid education in rural communities, with particular emphasis on those in the farming/ranching industry, directly through a prescription opioid misuse prevention program and a public health campaign.
Farming/ranching is often a family business with spouses and children involved with production and management. Therefore, when agriculture-related challenges occur such as unpredictable weather, economic changes, or injury, the accompanying stress affects the whole family. These stressors are risk factors for prescription opioid misuse. Of significant concern when addressing substance misuse is access to mental healthcare. Unfortunately, rural areas routinely experience inadequate access to services. Over 90% of counties in both North and South Dakota are classified as mental health professional shortage areas meaning the number of mental healthcare providers is not adequate based on need. To address the risk of opioid misuse, STH facilitates evidence-emerging prescription opioid misuse prevention programs, while also providing resources for front line professionals who support rural communities in North and South Dakota.