The USU Extension office recently funded an initiative that is geared completely toward assisting in the fight against the opioid epidemic that plagues all of Utah, especially Castle Country. This program, created by USU Extension and deemed HEART (Health, Extension, Advocacy, Research and Teaching), began by Ashley Yaugher, PhD and HEART program coordinator, conducting a needs assessment in the community to identify gaps that are not being addressed.
One of those gaps was ensuring that the many organizations, businesses, non-profits and more that play active roles in the fight against opioids work collaboratively. While there are many great groups working in their own way, creating a united front is paramount, Yaugher explained. A coalition has been created and a meeting will take place on Nov. 5 beginning at 11 a.m. at the Southeastern Utah Health Department.
This meeting will bring the community together with key stakeholders in one room and address the epidemic for both Carbon and Emery counties. All are welcome to this open meeting. Members of the health department, Four Corners, those recovering from addiction and the like will be in attendance. One key component to Yaugher’s role is to coordinate the team, which consists of five other people throughout Utah and represents nine counties.
Four main strategic goals and areas have been identified by Yaugher and the team: prevention and education, stigma reduction, strengthening community ties and policy. An online education program is also in the works to assist individuals in getting involved in their community, which will be titled the Master Health Volunteer Program. This program should be up and running by next year.
Following on the heels of the meeting on the morning of Nov. 5, a larger community meeting will be hosted on the USU Eastern campus beginning at 6 p.m. This meeting will have a panel of local experts that are ready to answer community questions. The community meeting coincides with the university’s bread and soup night, meaning that those that attend will be able to fill their bellies with a free warm meal before the panel begins.