Editor’s note: “A Better Life” is a new weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that focuses on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life.
USU Extension has always been the go-to resource for all things gardening and nutrition science. It has now expanded its programs to include evidence-based options for health and wellness in Utah.
Two years ago, Tooele County was ranked the 4th highest county in Utah for deaths by opioid overdose. USU Extension has hired five new faculty members across the state to help end the opioid epidemic. Thanks to the great partnerships and support at the county level, Tooele County is one of nine counties in the state to be represented by the new faculty.
The initiative is off to a great start. Within the first three months, the Health Extension: Advocacy, Research and Teaching (HEART) team brought in $1.4 million in new federal funding to help fight the opioid epidemic in Utah.
HEART at the Tooele Extension has been listening to community feedback from physicians and residents. The consensus says there aren’t enough affordable pain management options in the county outside of opioids. Responding to community needs is a USU Extension priority, so we created a partnership with University of Utah Health to offer affordable pain management options.
We are starting a complementary “Living Well with Chronic Pain” class in Tooele, scheduled to start in February 2019. Tooele County will also be the first county in the state to pilot a new Master Health Volunteer Program in Spring 2019. Like the Master Gardner program, volunteers will receive 40 hours of training and then be aligned with opportunities to serve the community in health promotion.
The program will feature a section on opioids, how to better understand the addiction potential and manage it. Volunteers can facilitate the “Living Well with Chronic Pain” courses or get involved in any other area of health they care about. With an army of health promotion volunteers, Tooele County residents will have increased access to better health.
Utah is a national trendsetter in extension services, pioneering new ways for USU Extension resources to be used to improve health. In addition to nutrition, USU Extension already offers relationship classes, parenting classes, and fitness opportunities that improve physical and mental health.
Now, USU Extension is offering even more for health promotion, targeting resources for combating the opioid epidemic. By building on relationships with 4-H, schools, farmers, ranchers, and community organizations, USU Extension can reach deep into the community to find and support the greatest needs. We can do more and have a bigger impact on health when we work together. USU Extension is a new partner for greater health in Tooele County.
Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2400 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.