By Eillie Anzilotti
In 2016, the opioid epidemic in America continued to persist at crisis level: Each day, 91 people died of a drug overdose, and the number of opioid-related deaths has quadrupled since 2000. Rural towns and small cities have been hit especially hard. According to research from the National Institutes of Health, people in non-metropolitan areas have higher rates of drug poisoning deaths, and opioid poisonings in nonmetropolitan counties have increased at more than three times the rate in urban areas.
At the recent HAC Rural Housing Conference, national policymakers proposed a decidedly urban solution to the addition epidemic: infrastructure. Tom Vilsack, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cited a lack of housing as a critical driver and perpetuator of the epidemic. In August, the USDA laid out a plan to finance transitional housing for people in treatment for opioid addiction in 22 states; other speakers called on federal agencies to invest in developing more affordable housing in rural communities.
CityLab spoke with Alan Morgan, the director of the National Rural Health Association, about why housing infrastructure will be a key player in solutions to the opioid epidemic in the years to come.