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MARQUETTE – Just last week, the USDA announced it will be giving funding priority in a key grant program for applications to address opioid misuse in rural communities.

The idea is to help local community leaders respond to the epidemic.

“We know that with opioids rural America is really struggling with this, far more than in urban areas,” said Jason Allen, State Director of the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development. “The lack of ability to access treatment is very limited so if you’re living in rural Michigan or the Upper Peninsula it’s a challenge for families.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

“We’re trying to create additional tools, additional opportunities for families and hospitals to access the care and the treatment they deserve,” said Allen.

Allen met with community leaders across the U.P., talking about what’s working and what can be improved in those communities. One of those methods discussed was the use of telemedicine to help overcome the effect of remoteness.

“Just trying to create those partnerships because what you’ll find is that we have a variety of tools,” said Allen. “A lot of ways to be able to help communities, but it’s getting the word out and then seeing where they’re going. What’s going to work in Hancock is going to be a little different from what works in Ontonagon which is different from works in Marquette.”

The USDA may award up to 30 special consideration points for Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program applications for projects that provide opioid treatment services in 220 at-risk counties identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The deadline for these applications is April 15, 2019.

USDA may award 10 special consideration points for opioid-related DLT projects or for those that provide Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education as their primary purpose. The application deadline for these projects is May 15, 2019.

All DLT applications can be submitted electronically right here or in hard copy to: USDA Rural Development Telecommunications Programs, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 2844, Mail Stop 1597, Washington, DC 20250-1597.