The Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance announced the 67 fellows selected to participate in the inaugural class of the Reaching Rural: Advancing Collaborative Solutions initiative. Co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Justice Institute, the initiative will support the fellows’ work to address the overdose crisis that has disproportionately affected rural communities across America.
The United States is experiencing an overdose epidemic. More than 107,000 Americans died from an overdose in 2021, an increase of almost 15% from 2020. While no corner of the country has gone untouched, the crisis has hit rural America particularly hard.
“Illicit substances—particularly powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl—continue to claim lives at alarming rates. The impact of the opioid crisis has been particularly intense in smaller, more isolated communities where treatment options tend to be scarce,” said BJA Director Karhlton F. Moore. “Through the Reaching Rural Initiative, we are working to support rural public safety and public health practitioners to build deeper partnerships and develop collaborative, innovative solutions to address the needs and challenges in their communities.”
Throughout the year-long initiative, the fellows will meet monthly, virtually and in-person, to examine their local and regional challenges and identify opportunities to serve justice-involved individuals with substance use or co-occurring disorders more effectively. The fellows were selected through a competitive application process and will participate in the Reaching Rural Initiative through one of two tracks, either as part of a cross-sector team from their community or as individuals. The Initiative is part of an ongoing interagency partnership to strengthen public safety and public health collaboration under BJA’s Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program.
The selected fellows reflect a diverse network of professionals representing 80 rural communities in 14 states. The fellows include elected county leaders, county and tribal judges, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, public defenders, public health and behavioral health practitioners, emergency management professionals, reentry coordinators and individuals working in community nonprofits in the following counties:
- Navajo County, Ariz.
- Antelope Valley, Calif.
- County of Del Norte, Calif.
- Solano County, Calif.
- White County, Ind.
- Vigo County, Ind.
- Hopkins County, Ky.
- Marshall County, Ky.
- Chippewa County, plus portions of three bordering counties: Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine, Minn.
- Polk County, Minn.
- Roseau County, Minn.
- Louis County, Minn.
- Todd County, Minn.
- Wright County, Minn.
- Rankin County, Miss.
- Jefferson County, Neb.
- Oneida County, N.Y.
- Harnett County, N.C.
- Cambria County, Pa.
- Cocke County, Tenn.
- 41 counties in the Panhandle and South Plains of West Texas, Texas.
- Prince George and Surry Counties, Va.
- Stevens County, Wash.
- Okanogan County, Wash.
- Fayette and Mason County, W.Va.
- Mercer, McDowell, Wyoming, Summers, Monroe, Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Webster, Pocahontas and Greenbrier Counties, W.Va.
For more information on the Reaching Rural Initiative, please visit: https://rural.cossapresources.org/reachingrural.