Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, chair of the White House Rural Council and leader of the Obama Administration’s national initiative on rural opioid addiction, will visit Nevada on Monday and Tuesday to meet with local leaders and highlight the urgent need for treatment resources in the state.
On Tuesday, Vilsack will hold a White House Rural Council Roundtable in Fallon to meet with local leaders fighting the epidemic followed by media availability. This event is open only to press and invited participants.
Later that day, he will host a press conference in Reno, where he will be joined by Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Chairman Arlan D. Melendez Nevada and other tribal leaders, to underscore the need for additional addiction treatment resources in rural communities and tribal areas.
Vilsack will conclude his trip on Wednesday by delivering keynote remarks at Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Drug Abuse Prevention Summit in Las Vegas.
Nevada is the fourth state Vilsack has visited since May to bring together local and state government partners, the health community, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to discuss solutions to address the crisis and highlight the critical need for resources in rural communities. Vilsack is calling on Congress to quickly pass funds to help turn the tide of the epidemic.
Recently, Congress passed legislation aimed at addressing the crisis; however it did not provide any funding that would expand resources. The President’s budget proposes $1.1 billion in new funding to support states in expanding treatment options. Nevada would be eligible for up to $9 million dollars over two years to expand access to treatment for opioid use disorders.
Addressing the opioid epidemic is a priority for the Administration and in January, President Obama appointed Vilsack to lead an interagency initiative focused on this specific challenge in rural America. Prescription drug misuse and heroin have taken a heartbreaking toll on too many American families, while straining public resources. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows opioids were involved in 28,648 deaths in 2014, which means more Americans are dying from drug overdoses than in motor vehicle accidents each year.
President Barack Obama appointed the former Iowa governor as the 30th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2009.
According to his biography, Vilsack’s USDA has supported struggling farmers and ranchers, provided food aid to one in four Americans, and worked to create jobs and build a foundation for future economic growth, especially in rural America.
Under his leadership at USDA, the 65-year-old Vilsack is working to ensure that America’s forests and private working lands are conserved and is improving the health of America’s children, targeting child hunger and obesity with efforts to encourage balanced meals, nutritious eating and increased physical activity.
Prior to becoming the USDA secretary, Vilsack served two terms as governor of the Hawkeye State. In 1998, incumbent Terry Branstad chose not to seek re-election after 16 years as governor. After a close primary, Vilsack narrowly won the general election and became the first Democrat to serve as governor of Iowa in 30 years.
In 2002 he won his second term in office by 8 percentage points.