This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2018-46100-284784.  Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

USDA-NIFA Rural Health and Safety Education Grant Summary


Aitkin County Public Health & Human Services (Erin Melz), Itasca County Public Health & Human Services (Kelly Chandler), University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy (Laura Palombi), University of Minnesota Extension – Center for Family Development (Mary Jo Katras, Lori Hendrickson, Jennifer Garbow, Betsy Johnson & Emily Becher), University of Minnesota – Center for Community Vitality (Lori Rothstein), community members and professionals in Aitkin and Itasca County


This project aims to promote community protective factors and reduce the impact of risk factors to prevent opioid use and support sustained recovery. The project utilizes the theory of Recovery Capital as the basis of its work and will develop a local community leadership group of Change Makers, increased capacity in local recovery organizations, a Framework for assessing community Recovery Capital and a Toolkit for developing Recovery Capital in rural communities.

Overall Program Objectives

  1. Engage diverse stakeholders in focus groups and listening sessions to assess positive and negative Recovery Capital in two neighboring rural Minnesota communities.
  2. Increase knowledge in local communities regarding the opioid issue and its impact on individuals with a substance use disorder, families, friends and the community.
  3. Identify and educate local leaders with an interest in improving the local environment/ building Recovery Capital, so they develop the skills and connections needed to lead local changes in knowledge, policy and environment.
  4. Empower local Change Makers to increase Recovery Capital in their communities through leading social innovation projects.
  5. Engage and empower local recovery organization leaders to identify the needs of individuals in recovery and provide education and training to staff to increase locally available Recovery Capital
  6. Develop a Framework for assessing community Recovery Capital and a Toolkit for creating Recovery Capital in rural communities.
  7. Evaluate impact of program outcomes on communities, organizations and Change Makers.
  8. Disseminate project results at local, state and national levels using communication channels to most effectively reach varied stakeholder groups.

Community Engagement Timeline

  • October – December 2018:  Focus groups with community members, health care providers, recovery community, and any other identified stakeholders
  • December 2018-January 2019: Semi-structured interviews with stakeholders
  • February-March 2019: Planning Community Forums
  • April – May 2019: Community Forums on Opioid Use Conducted in Aitkin and Itasca County