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

PROSPERING Step-by-step, State-by-state

John Lawrence’s message from July 30, 2018

Follow the prevention evidence one step at a time: That is the basis for a new, two-year project we’re helping fund to continue the fight against substance misuse in Iowa. The evidence comes from our work with PROSPER and the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14. The new project is PROSPERing Step-by-step, State-by-state (P2S): Science-based Prevention Workforce Training Systems to Combat the Opioid Crisis. According to the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy, opioid abuse is Iowa’s fastest growing substance abuse issue. P2S is extension-powered and guided by scientific evidence, with the goal of building rural communities’ capacity to address the opioid crisis and achieve positive impacts for youth and families. Did you know?

  • The P2S team expects to assist three rural sites in their application of resources to address opioid-related problems and issues.
  • The majority of youth and their families in the selected sites are expected to participate in research-based or evidence-based school and family programs. One option will be SFP 10-14, which has previously demonstrated reductions in opioid misuse.
  • P2S training systems will provide educational opportunities to all ISU Extension and Outreach county-based educators in the counties in which the selected sites are located. Several will receive more intensive training and support to enhance their capacity to form community partnerships addressing the opioid issue. Field specialists also will be eligible for training to support their assigned counties. Selected educators will be eligible for a train-the-trainer effort to grow and sustain P2S in Iowa.
  • The Iowa Department of Public Health and Midwest Counterdrug Training Center are partnering with us. Together we will demonstrate an innovative opioid prevention workforce development model that can be exported to other states and territories.
  • To learn more, contact Iowa State’s Richard Spoth (rlspoth@iastate.edu) and Lisa Schainker (lschain@iastate.edu). Spoth and Cathy Hockaday (hockaday@iastate.edu) are part of the Extension Opioid Crisis Response Workgroup, which is considering how extension nationwide could expand capacity to address the opioid crisis.

The PROSPER Rx Project is hosting a free capacity-building workshop Sept. 12 in Ames. All extension staff and faculty are invited to attend. It’s a good professional development opportunity to learn more about opioid and prescription drug misuse, mental health concerns, and readily available tools and resources, as well as network with potential partners to conduct prevention work in communities. Register online; the deadline is Aug. 22. See the flyer for more information; contact Lisa Schainker, PROSPER Rx principal investigator (lschain@iastate.edu), with questions.

One more note: We left our mark on this year’s RAGBRAI bikers, with about 3,000 ISU Extension and Outreach branded sunscreen sticks. After the bikers rode their Cyclone loop through Jack Trice Stadium, they could stop by our tent to get a stick, which featured our wordmark and website url, along with broad spectrum SPF 30 protection. We’ll also be giving out sunscreen sticks during 4-H Day on the Grand Concourse during the Iowa State Fair.

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

Strong partnerships for prevention

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 30, 2017

Each partnership is stronger than the one before: That is the model for the work Human Sciences Extension and Outreach does with the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State. This successful working relationship began in the 1990s, with interventions designed to address youth substance abuse and other problem behaviors. As they’ve increased competencies in families and youth, their work has led to a robust research base and international acclaim. Did you know?

  • Human sciences specialists, county staff and community members have led the internationally renowned “Iowa Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14” since the early 1990s. SFP 10-14 is evidence-based, which means we have the research to prove it gets results.
  • Experience with earlier projects led to PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience). These partnerships make it easier to deliver scientifically tested interventions and promote youth competence. Several human sciences specialists spend about 20 percent of their time as prevention coordinators in PROSPER counties.
  • Mackenzie Johnson, a human sciences specialist in family life, is working with PROSPER staff to update the “Family Matters” curriculum, which will be used with two PROSPER projects. She will help the team remain true to the core components of the evidence of the curriculum while updating it to be engaging and usable for today’s parents.
  • Specialists Sara Sprouse, Joyce Lash, Mackenzie Johnson and Lori Hayungs recently were trained in the “Universal Prevention Curriculum.” The goal of the series is to ensure effective delivery of prevention interventions. PROSPER offered this opportunity to our staff in appreciation for the partnership Human Sciences Extension and Outreach has with PPSI.

It is more effective to prevent substance abuse and other problem behaviors before they begin, than to try to stop them after they start. It’s not rocket science; it’s prevention science – and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach is a key partner in sustaining these efforts.

A few more notes

  • Iowa State University has a new president, with a close extension connection. Wendy Wintersteen began her career as a field agronomist in east central Iowa, served as an integrated pest management extension associate and worked her way up with leadership positions in ISU Extension and Outreach, as well as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. We look forward to working with ISU President-Select Wintersteen. (Her official start date is Nov. 20. See the news release and her first message to the Iowa State community.)
  • The application deadline for the 2018 Rising Star Internship program is Nov. 1. For a reminder of why we support this program, watch this video: some of our 2017 Rising Star Interns share their stories.
  • Congratulations to Iowa State’s Women’s and Men’s Cross Country Teams winning the Big XII championship, Women’s Volleyball knocking off #11 Kansas and the Football victory over the second top 5 team in a month. All in Homecoming week!

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

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