USDA hosts opioid roundtable in Berea

Published: May. 9, 2018 at 5:40 PM EDT
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The opioid epidemic is at a crisis level in many parts of the United States.

Kentucky is one of the hot spots for the problem, and it's not just in large cities like Lexington and Louisville. Rural areas are also dealing with a surge in overdoses.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted a roundtable discussion in Berea Wednesday to talk about solutions.

The USDA brought experts to the Boone Tavern as part of their roundtable: "Opioid Abuse in Kentucky: A Focus on Vulnerability."

Their backgrounds range from healthcare to law enforcement. to elected officials, plus people like Alex Elswick a recovering addict.

"Research tells us one of the most effective ways to reduce stigma associated with substance disorders is to do exactly what we're doing here- to give the person in recovery an opportunity to stand up and recover out loud," said Elswick.

Leaders say help from federal agencies like the USDA is important to reinforce efforts being made on the local and levels

"We see our role at USDA as to come alongside and be a partner to local leaders like many of you in this room in building these solutions," said Anne Hazlett, USDA's Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development.

Leaders also say it's important to pursue a variety of solutions.

"It's not just about treatment, it's about connecting people to all those things that keep them from lapsing back into that disease," said Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley. "Helping them battle it. Jobs, housing transportation and treatment, mentors."

The USDA is sponsoring several roundtables across the country in areas hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

The next ones are on June 6 in Oklahoma and on July 11 in Maine.