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Leaning on community means having the strength to beat opioid addiction


LEBANON, Ind. — Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielson brought home the severity of the national opioid crisis: Last year’s 64,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States matches the number of residents in this one county.

In 2016, there were 18 overdose deaths in Boone County, but he said the number is higher because residents who have died in other counties are listed in that county’s mortality rate. Legislators are looking to mandate better statistics in tracking the opioid situation.

Nielson was part of a panel discussing solutions and resources at the Ag Industry and Rural Community Opioid Addiction Symposium presented by AgrIInstitute earlier this month. Community was a recurring theme during the panel, and one community resource often overlooked and underutilized are church programs.

“The community needs to be involved,” he said. “We have a big faith-based ministry in the jail, and chaplains who do Bible studies and Celebrate Recovery.”

One highly successful community effort is the Strengthening Families Program (SFP) For Parents and Youth 10-14, introduced in Indiana in 2011 by Purdue University extension. SFP is rated No. 1 by national and international review groups including the World Health Organization, National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Last year, extension specialists presented six SFP workshops across Indiana consisting of seven 2-hour sessions. Families eat a meal together, then youth and parents split into separate groups for an hour before coming together in the second hour.

“Strengthening Families promotes the positive factors and decreases the risk factors,” said Stephanie Wilcox, with Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

The program is designed for a group of 7-10 families and is led by three certified facilitators. It builds communication and allows parents and children to practice skills with learning games and family projects.

SFP is shown to delay the onset of adolescent substance use, lower levels of aggression in youth, increase resistance to peer pressure, reduce conduct problems and improve parenting skills.

The program also benefits the community. For every dollar spent on SFP 10-14, $9.60 comes back to the community as benefits in the form of less jail time, less time off work and less time in treatment. Those interested may visit or contact their county extension for more information.

Community conversations were a recurring theme at the symposium, to address opioids on a local level. Stakeholders are encouraged to bring together law enforcement, adult and juvenile corrections, school administrators, health care and mental health providers, faith-based organizations, employers, social services and other entities to directly address the impact of drugs on their communities.

Groups launch ‘Farm Town Strong’

Early this year, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and National Farmers Union (NFU) announced a new campaign, “Farm Town Strong,” to raise awareness of the opioid crisis’ impact on farming communities. The campaign will provide resources and information to help farm communities and encourage farmer-to-farmer support to overcome the crisis.

The groups have launched a new website at to provide easy access to information and resources that can help struggling farm families and rural communities. The campaign comes on the heels of a recent survey commissioned by AFBF and NFU that highlighted how the opioid epidemic has hit farmers and farm workers especially hard.

While just under half of rural Americans say they, a family member or friend have been directly impacted by opioid abuse, for farmers and farm workers, it’s 74 percent. A strong majority of respondents also support increasing public awareness of anti-opioid resources, and reducing the stigma that surrounds addiction to help solve the opioid crisis.

“Farm country has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic – even harder than rural America as a whole, or big cities,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It’s going to take everyone working together to combat this crisis to make a difference. That’s why Farm Bureau and Farmers Union are teaming up to show unity on this issue and encourage farm families to help their neighbors.”

“Opioid addiction, along with all of its consequences, is a silent, but very real, crisis for our farming communities,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The lack of services, treatment and support exacerbates the issue in rural areas, and the negative stigma associated with addiction makes it hard for farmers to discuss the problem.

“Too often, those struggling with addiction and their family members don’t seek the support they need. Through the Farm Town Strong campaign, we’re tackling this crisis head-on by encouraging more dialogue, more information sharing, and more farmer-to-farmer engagement.”

In addition, AgrIInstitute provided a list of other resource websites to address the opioid crisis and assist in community discussion:

•Indiana State Department of Health statistics:

•Indiana Department of Mental Health:

•Indiana Next Level Recovery:

•Indiana Comprehensive Treatment Centers:

•Indiana Criminal Justice Institute:

•Indiana Prevention Resource center:

•IN Opioid Addiction Treatment and Rehab Centers:

•Indiana Rural Health Assoc:

•Innovative Health Solutions:

•Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration:

•Addiction Policy Forum:

•Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation:

•National Safety Council:

•County Health Rankings and Roadmaps:

•National Institute on Drug Abuse:

•What’s Up with Opioids: