The United States Department of Agriculture announced Thursday that it is investing in two rural health centers in Utah: the Brigham City Bear Lake Community Health Center and Rocky Mountain Health Care in Heber.
Utah is one of 29 states to receive a piece of the total $237 million the USDA has granted or loaned toward 119 rural community service facilities, nationwide.
The Brigham City health center will use the loan to build two new exam rooms that, in addition to regular medical visits, will be used for brief intervention and referral to treatment for opioid misuse.
Randy Parker, Utah’s USDA director, said funding rural health centers, and focusing on the opioid misuse, is important.
“These are isolated communities that really do need to have some attention and focus on healthcare needs," he said. "Utah’s been hard hit with opioid misuse. There’s no question, there’s no doubt, based on the numbers this is a dynamic need.”
Utah’s drug overdose rate ranks seventh highest in the nation and six Utahns die every week from opioid overdose. Rural areas have not been left unaffected by the crisis. According to a 2017 survey sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union, 74% of farmers and farmworkers say they have been impacted by the opioid epidemic.
“There was an important aspect to this project that really was elevated on the USDA priority list," Parker said. "And that’s opioid misuse. Utah has been identified as an area of critical need and so this expansion into the Bear Lake area and adding an opioid misuse component for treatment and referral is of critical importance.”
More information on USDA loans is available at www.rd.usda.gov.