Today, opioids, a class of mind-altering and addictive substances that include Oxycontin and heroin, are the most commonly abused drugs in America. Opioid addiction is responsible for about 78 deaths every day. Rural areas of many states, including Wisconsin, have proven to be the most heavily affected by addiction to opioids, where people are more likely to be unemployed or else to have a job with a higher risk of injuries likely to be treated with prescription painkillers that can lead to an addiction.
Levendofsky says big pharmaceutical companies that seek to profit off the addiction epidemic through unfair competition and pricing structures should be held accountable for their actions. Right now, the Wisconsin attorney general is suing the corporation behind the biggest addiction treatment for gouging consumers and running a monopoly. Levendofsky says our tax dollars are too valuable right now to be undercut by drugmakers when there are other urgent funding needs for our rural communities.
Former USDA Secretary Vilsack made the issue one of his priorities, as he saw the lasting harm the epidemic was having. Just last month, President Trump signed an executive order establishing a commission to tackle prevention and interdiction, giving particular attention to addiction recovery and improving access to treatment.
As this issue gains steam with the Administration and Congress looks to the next Farm Bill, Levendofsky says it will be vital to maintain funding and programs currently in place. He also says rural and agricultural communities have already taken their budget cuts in the last Farm Bill and that the Wisconsin Farmer’s Union will continue to advocate policies that improve the quality of life in rural America.