PolicyMap’s Work with USDA on Opioid Epidemic Highlighted by Agriculture Secretary

In the last several weeks, PolicyMap has been working with the USDA on a special initiative related to tackling the growing opioid epidemic in rural America.  This initiative was officially announced last Wednesday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as outlined in a USDA press release. The goal of the initiative is to leverage USDA Rural Development’s existing housing and community assets to fill the need for transitional housing for people recovering from opioid and other substance abuse in rural communities. Currently, the lack of access to affordable housing is a significant barrier for participants attempting to complete substance abuse recovery programs.

PolicyMap worked with the Office of the Secretary and our partners in USDA Rural Development’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) to develop an interactive web mapping tool tailored to this specific issue.  The map shows the rate of drug overdose deaths from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) along with treatment facility data from several federal agencies – drug and alcohol treatment centers and certified buprenorphine physicians from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and additional health facilities from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  Finally, the map shows housing portfolio data from USDA RHS including locations of multifamily properties and aggregated county-level data for single family housing guaranteed and direct loans.  PolicyMap is also working with RHS to incorporate data on its portfolio of community facilities loans, guarantees and grants.

Treatment center data can be filtered to show those that treat opioid addiction, the type of care provided and particular service settings including telemedicine. Multifamily property data can be narrowed based on the number of units, average income of tenants and the estimated year that a property will be exiting the RHS portfolio.

Combining all of this data in one place allows the USDA and other stakeholders to identify areas in greatest need of transitional housing to combat opioid addiction and to identify potential opportunities where existing USDA assets may be converted to fill that need.

PolicyMap is truly honored to be working alongside the USDA on such an important initiative. It has been great to be a part of this inter-agency collaborative effort to address a complex issue. We look forward to continuing to work together with the USDA and other partners on this initiative in the future.