Native American, Rural Women Hit Hardest by Opioid Crisis, Experts Say

The Crime Report

By Megan Hadley

Native American females and women in rural communities suffer the highest risk of deaths from opioids and other drugs, advocates and caregivers involved in mental health and trauma said Thursday.

The risk is heightened for Native American women, who face a long history of oppression and abuse, turning to opioids as a form of pain management, and for women in rural areas, who have limited access to drug treatment programs, the experts said at a webinar organized by the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health.

Researchers found that more than 84 percent of Alaska Native and American Indian women had experienced some form of violence in their lifetimes: 56 percent experienced sexual violence and 55 percent experienced intimate partner violence, according to a study released by the National Institute of Justice in 2016.

In some villages, 100 percent of women experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, the webinar told.

Indigenous women also face a long history of genocide, removal from their land, removal of their children into state custody, and loss of culture and language- all factors that play into the high rates of opioid deaths, said Gwendolyn Packard, a specialist at The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC).

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