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SAMHSA News - July/August 2007, Volume 15, Number 4

From the Administrator: Putting Rural Substance Abuse “On the Map”

For too long, substance abuse in rural America has remained hidden from the national consciousness. The public’s idyllic image of rural life, limited rural health data, and failure to see rural areas as connected to the larger society have all contributed to this perceived invisibility.

Yet the need for substance abuse treatment is evident in both urban and rural areas.

For example, according to SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set, the substance abuse treatment admission rates for narcotic painkillers increased 230 percent between 1992 and 2005. The increase was smallest in large central metropolitan areas (103 percent) and greatest in the most rural areas, i.e., nonmetropolitan areas both with and without a city (462 percent and 440 percent, respectively).

The cover story in this issue of SAMHSA News describes some of the most promising practices and innovative approaches for treating substance abuse in rural areas, identified through papers submitted to the National Rural Alcohol and Drug Abuse Network (NRADAN) Center for Excellence in 2004.

SAMHSA’s Centers for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment both support NRADAN’s National Rural Institute on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, held annually in Menomonie, WI, to provide workforce training.

This issue of SAMHSA News also includes an article on a new resource kit from SAMHSA’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center for Excellence targeted to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. These groups often live in rural or remote communities and have disproportionately high substance abuse prevention and treatment needs, which SAMHSA addresses through several of its grant activities.

SAMHSA’s targeted capacity expansion grants include rural areas and American Indian tribes in efforts to expand the community’s ability to provide comprehensive responses to prevention and treatment capacity gaps.

In response to the increase in admissions for methamphetamine abuse, SAMHSA funded prevention grants in 2002, 2003, and 2006 to support expansion of methamphetamine prevention interventions and to develop delivery systems. SAMHSA also awarded grants in 2004, 2005, and 2006 to provide treatment for methamphetamine use and other emerging drugs for adults residing in targeted areas of need—including rural communities.

To recruit and retain qualified staff in rural areas, SAMHSA is currently working on a National Plan on Rural Behavioral Health focusing on workforce development.

SAMHSA will continue to explore and support other responses to the problem of rural substance abuse, ensuring that the issue remains at the forefront of the Nation’s attention.

Terry L. Cline, Ph.D.
Administrator, SAMHSA

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