White House committed to ending rural drug epidemic
In small towns like Jacksboro, big cities like Knoxville and countless places in between, our nation is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis of drug addiction. In 2018, nearly 200 Americans died each day due to a drug overdose. And while no ZIP code has escaped the scourge of this epidemic, rural America has been particularly hard hit.
Victory over drug addiction will take all of us working together. Particularly in rural communities, the faith community is a powerful asset in this battle. Recently, I had an opportunity to see this firsthand in a visit to Springs of Life, a men’s recovery center in Jellico, Tennessee, a community in rural Campbell County that has been significantly affected by drugs. At Springs of Life, executive director Cliff Branham has teamed up with the county health care provider, business community and local officials in the region to ensure that men struggling with the disease of addiction not only get healthy but also learn a new way to live.
Springs of Life is restoring hope in its community by providing men with key tools for success like vocational training, education and parenting skills. The impact of its leadership is magnified by partnerships such as a new job-training and placement program with a local construction company. These faith leaders are healing their community and reversing course in its future.
Under the leadership of President Donald Trump and Jim Carroll, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the administration is deeply committed to being a strong partner to local leaders like Cliff in saving lives. For example, last year, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy teamed up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to compile a federal rural resource guide to help rural leaders navigate the many federal programs available to address the addiction crisis in small towns.
Beyond the USDA, the Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that entities in Tennessee received $2 million through its Rural Communities Opioid Response Program. These resources will help local leaders overcome the many barriers that often exist in rural communities to defeat the disease of drug addiction. In 2018, Trump marked the 20th anniversary of the Drug-Free Communities Program by awarding the largest number of grants ever: $90.9 million to 731 local grassroots coalitions focused on preventing youth substance use.
These investments will assist leaders in rural places across Tennessee, like Oneida, a town of 3,700 in Scott County, to set a healthy vision for the next generation.
As we work alongside the faith community and other local leaders to build strong and healthy places, I am reminded of a scripture that a local doctor shared with me during my visit to Jellico: “Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and restorer of homes” (Isaiah 58:12, NLT). This wisdom is an anchor not only for the ministry at Springs of Life but also for our shared mission to save lives and restore hope for the future. Working together as partners, we can ensure that Tennessee is a place with quality of life and economic opportunity now and for generations to come.
Anne Hazlett is the senior adviser for rural affairs in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.