In July 2015, 14 percent of Americans lived in rural parts of the country — 46.2 million people. Although we constantly hear about social and economic problems in cities, we shouldn’t forget that many of the people who live in rural America are suffering as well.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a new report on drug overdose deaths in the U.S. between 1999 and 2015, and it found that the rural overdose death rate is higher than it is in urban areas: 17 per 100,000 versus 16.2 per 100,000. Ru…

According to a study recently released by the University of Michigan, opioid abuse has become particularly severe in rural America. …

And it isn’t just rates of drug abuse — there are many other measures that illuminate problems in the more remote parts of the U.S. In 2015, the rural poverty rate was 16.7 percent, while the rates in urban and suburban areas were 13 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively. …

Some national policymakers continue to ignore these realities. When the Trump administration released its budget earlier this year, Kansans and other rural Americans were dismayed that it included a 36 percent cut to crop insurance and a proposal to eliminate funding for the Essential Air Service — a program that gives airlines incentives to serve rural areas. While it’s unlikely that these measures will be implemented, it’s alarming that President Trump’s priorities include cuts that would sever rural communities from the rest of the country and put our beleaguered farmers in an even more precarious economic position.

However, there are also people Washington and Topeka who recognize that things need to change in rural America – which brings us back to the opioid crisis. In August, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services received $3.1 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the “first year of a two-year grant for the prevention and treatment of opioid abuse in Kansas.” This money will allow KDADS to fund anti-addiction programs, organize a media campaign to improve prevention efforts, and develop a strategic plan to address opioid abuse at every level: treatment, awareness, etc.

We can’t allow rural America to keep falling behind, and interventions like the KDADS grant are indispensable to that effort.

— The Topeka Capital-Journal