Learn about the opioid issue in Iowa

John Lawrence’s message from April 1, 2019

Iowa doesn’t have an opioid crisis – at least not yet. However, opioid misuse is an emerging drug issue that state agencies and local communities will need to manage, and that we all need to learn more about. Extension rural sociologist David J. Peters, undergraduate research assistant Peter A. Miller and criminology professor Andrew Hochstetler have explained research on this issue in a new publication, Understanding the Opioid Crisis in Rural and Urban Iowa (SOC 3088). Did you know?

  • The report provides background information on the current status and trends related to opioid-use deaths in Iowa. It also compares rural and urban counties, and describes the socioeconomic conditions of places that have high and low opioid-use death rates.
  • Four factors appear to be driving opioid addiction and overdoses in rural Iowa: poverty and low employment rates, work in injury-prone jobs, lack of adequate law enforcement, and few civic and social organizations to deal with the drug problem.
  • Although urban areas have economic and law enforcement advantages that rural areas do not have, these advantages don’t seem to stop opioid abuse, the researchers say. We need more research to understand the mechanisms driving addiction and death in Iowa’s urban communities.

Peters, Miller and Hochstetler’s publication also compares death rates from prescription vs. synthetic opioids and heroin use, as well as how Iowa’s opioid-use death rates compare to surrounding states and the U.S. Their work is part of the Rural Opioids Project, a collaboration of Iowa State, Syracuse University and University of Iowa.

Project STOMP

ISU Extension and Outreach staff from all program areas are invited to learn about Project STOMP – Steps Toward Opioid Misuse Prevention. The PROSPER Rx Team is kicking off this new initiative with free regional workshops; the first one is today in Orange City and four more will be offered throughout the state in April, May and June. This is an opportunity to get free educational materials, as well as ongoing support for planning and implementing community-based, substance-misuse prevention strategies for your county. You can be part of prevention partnerships that benefit youth, families and communities. For more information, contact Kathy Clancy, kclancy@iastate.edu.

Dealing with flooding
I had the opportunity to tour the flooded regions of Fremont, Mills and West Pottawattamie counties on Friday with Senator Grassley, USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey and Iowa Secretary of Ag Mike Naig. I grew up in these counties, and while my family was not impacted, I know people who were. The damage to communities, homes, farmsteads, stored grain, land, and road and levy infrastructure is sobering. It will take months and in some cases years to recover, and the sad truth is that some will not recover from this disaster.

Our extension colleagues in the region are having an impact during the evacuation and recovery. They stepped up to assist where needed, and other agencies and partners turned to ISU Extension and Outreach because we have been there before and we are a trusted resource. Thank your colleagues when you see them and ask how you can help. Like the rest of us, they will continue to have regularly scheduled programming at the same time they assist those recovering from the floods.

We continue to update our resources for dealing with flooding on our Disaster Recovery website. These resources always are available on the ISU Extension and Outreach website (from the “Learn More About …” tab). As you help Iowans deal with flooding issues this spring, please take care of yourselves, too.

One more note: You can find the 2018 Listening Sessions Summary at the top of the resource list on my Did You Know Blog. (You’ll also find an archive of all my weekly messages.) Here’s another quick way to get to the summary. Go to the ISU Extension and Outreach homepage and type “listening sessions summary” in the search box.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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