The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing nearly $1 million to launch a program aimed at preventing opioid and substance abuse in north central and northeast Arkansas.
That region has high rates of opioid abuse and overdose deaths.
The two-year Delta Understanding and Preventing Substance and Opioid Abuse in Rurality Program (Delta UPSOAR), led by Winrock International in partnership with Ozarka College and the University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences' Institute for Digital Health & Innovation, will deliver preventive training, education and resources to youth and adults in Baxter, Fulton, Izard, Sharp and Stone counties.
Arkansas is the second highest-ranking state in the nation for opioid prescription rates, and the five counties targeted by this program are some of the most at-risk communities in the state, according to a news release.
The program is designed to serve youth and adults who have not received intensive opioid and substance abuse awareness training and education through other programs. While first responders, law enforcement and some school-age children in the region have received opioid abuse training, most of the population has not, the release states.
"The opioid crisis is a threat to health and prosperity in Arkansas and across rural America. To grow resilient rural economies, we must address this problem," said Linsley Kinkade, senior director of U.S. programs at Winrock International, in the release. "Many rural Americans lack access to the information and resources they need to prevent and address opioid abuse in their families and communities. Winrock is proud to partner with USDA, Ozarka College and UAMS on this innovative local response."
Delta UPSOAR's goals are to improve understanding of opioid and substance abuse, reduce the stigma that prevents treatment, and increase confidence in identifying and reacting to opioid and substance abuse.
Through live presentations, community events, online learning modules and hands-on overdose simulation training, Delta UPSOAR will teach residents of the five counties how to:
Recognize drug dependence among family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors or themselves;
Seek help for themselves or others through area treatment and counseling centers;
Prevent drug exposure, dependency and overdose; and
React and respond to an overdose.
Five presentations will be delivered by Ozarka College and will be live-streamed to uamspatientslearn.org, where they will remain available for download and viewing for free to the public.
Ten interactive online educational modules will also be made available for free to the public on the UAMS website.
Ozarka College, in partnership with the UAMS Centers for Simulation Education, will also host 40 workshops at various venues across the five counties as well as 14 youth workshops at 14 high schools.
In addition, there will be 20 hands-on, risk-free overdose simulation trainings with high-tech mannequins.