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Rural Communities Struggling to Fight COVID-19, Drug Addiction

Rural communities across the state are struggling to fight both the COVID-19 infection and opioid drug addiction.

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, there had been progress in rural areas on dealing with opioid addition. But since COVID-19 arrived that progress has stopped, says Jim Carroll, Director of National Drug Control Policy at the White House.

“I am very concerned we are going to start backsliding and that we still see overdoses in greater numbers,” he states.

Carroll says the shutdown of the economy for the past month has also had an adverse impact, “Today, the public health threat posed by COVID-19, along with the essential mitigation measures being implemented across the country to slow the spread, together create unprecedented obstacles for Americans seeking drug treatment. We must act boldly and creatively to ensure our nation, specifically in rural America, continues to make progress.”

The administration has also granted blanket, state-level exceptions for stable patients to receive take-home doses of medication for opioid use disorder.

“In addition, our federal partners have issued exemptions for allowing alternate delivery methods of opioid treatment medications. New guidance is continually being issued as states and private providers raise new issues in maintaining continuity of care,” says Carroll.

In response, Carroll says the  Trump administration and state government have made changes in procedures and regulations.

“President Trump has deployed an all-of-government approach in protecting the health and safety of rural America,” he said. “The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Agriculture are working to ensure that rural communities have the broadband service and equipment needed for telehealth. The Health Resources and Services Administration is at work supporting rural health centers with additional funding to provide care during the pandemic.”

But more needs to be done. As Carroll said in a recent op-ed, additional funding will be made available to local communities to help deal with the crisis, “The Small Business Administration is coming alongside rural small businesses with funding to keep their workforce employed during the pandemic.“

Carroll praises Gov. Holcomb for his handling of the situation and his commitment to rural communities in Indiana, “In towns large and small, we have made enormous strides in addressing our nation’s addiction crisis over the past three years. We cannot – and will not – let that progress be yet another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.”