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Officials want Utahns in rural areas to know they don’t have to battle addiction or mental illness alone

Posted at 11:57 AM, Sep 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-30 13:57:49-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- When it comes to the opioid crisis and suicide, no Utah community is immune. And that includes our rural ranchers and farmers.

Nearly 10 percent of Utah’s population lives outside of the Wasatch Front, and many of the counties hit hardest by opioid mortality are rural towns and agricultural areas.

Part of the reason has to do with financial stress. Many farmers and ranchers are reporting several years of decreasing income.

This year has been particularly difficult with the US being in the middle of a trade war with China.

Combine that with rural isolation and very religious communities, where addiction can be looked upon with shame, and you have a perfect storm for suicide and overdose deaths.

“Farmers and ranchers, one of the things that we’re the most proud of is the fact that we’re independent,” said Kerry W. Gibson, Utah Commissioner on Agriculture and Food. “We don’t ask for help from the government or our neighbors or anyone else unless we absolutely have to.”

Randy Parker with Utah USDA Developmental Services said they want those folks to know they don’t have to go it alone.

“That’s what we’re trying to do here is tell them there is assistance out there at the state and federal level,” Parker said.

This issue hits especially close to home for Parker, who has a relative currently dealing with addiction issues.

He and Gibson want farmers and ranchers to know there are a number of financial and medical service available, including counseling services.

The state has also secured federal grant money for things like ambulances equipped with naloxone, allowing EMTs and first responders to reverse overdoses.

That’s happening right now in Carbon County.

The bottom line is they want folks to know help is available and there is no shame in seeking it out.