- Farm agency finds itself on frontline of fight against opioids
- Drain of people from countryside picks up pace with job loss
The government agency helping fund the clinic Harmon visits? The U.S. Department of Agriculture. Created in the mid-19th century to ensure the future of farming, it's becoming Uncle Sam's lead tool to fight a social emergency -- soaring drug use, rising suicide rates and deepening poverty -- spreading across the heartland. "We're charged with the responsibility of filling the gap to make sure rural America hasn't been forgotten," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says.
That's a daunting task at a time of many-headed crisis for largely white, rural communities like Pomeroy, a town of about 1,800 people about 200 miles south of Cleveland, where the Republican convention gathered this week. The opioid epidemic has accompanied an ebbing-away of jobs and, among some demographics, an unprecedented drop in life expectancy. Any Norman Rockwell idyll of white-picket fences and unlocked front doors has long since been upended by globalization.