Strengthening Heartland Program Brings Free Opioid Misuse Prevention

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Programs to promote discussions related to prescription opioids are available for communities across South Dakota and North Dakota through “Strengthening the Heartland,” a collaborative project between SDSU Extension and NDSU Extension.

“’Strengthening the Heartland’ offers a variety of free resources to rural communities including face-to-face presentations, webinars and print resources about opioid misuse prevention,” said Amber Letcher, South Dakota State University associate professor and SDSU Extension 4-H youth development specialist.

“Strengthening the Heartland” offers free, hour-long facilitated presentations for youth and adult audiences. A program entitled, “This Is (Not) About Drugs,” is targeted to grades six through 12 and helps raise youth awareness of the risks of misusing prescription opioids, while encouraging them to seek alternatives to substances for dealing with stress.

“This program is great for schools because it can be adapted for individual classrooms or school assemblies,” Letcher said.

The “Opioid Public Health Crisis” presentation targets adults and discusses opioid misuse, risk factors and suggested prevention methods. This hour-long presentation is appropriate for community members and professionals.

In addition to the face-to-face presentations, free webinars on topics such as “Opioids 101,” “Fentanyl,” and “Addiction and the Family” are publicly available. Print resources are available upon request including bi-quarterly newsletters and informational brochures.

SDSU Extension and NDSU Extension collaboratively developed “Strengthening the Heartland” with grant support from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Currently, 10 individuals from across South Dakota are trained to present the programs, including prevention specialists, counselors, graduate students and other individuals who have an interest in, or connection to, the issue. Letcher said the program is in need of presenters and anyone interested may contact her to learn more. Presenters complete online trainings with support from Overdose Lifeline, Inc., and earn $100 per presentation.

For questions or to schedule a presentation in your community or school, contact Amber Letcher, associate professor and SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Specialist, at or Nicole Schwing, research assistant at SDSU, at

–SDSU Extension