Defining Rural America

Rural areas spread across 97% of U.S. soil. “Rural” refers to any area outside of a town, city, or urban cluster with less than 50,000 residents. Rural includes all territories, housing, and populations outside a metropolitan area. Sixty million people are living in areas classified as rural in the United States.

The rural demographic has significantly changed over the past century, markedly since the end of World War II when many sought-after opportunities of employment, industry, and higher education. While urban populations soar, there has been a significant proportional decrease in the rural communities, from more than 54%, to now just over 19% of the overall U.S. population. Over the past decade, rural counties experienced an overall population decline for the first time in U.S. history.

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Opioid Crisis:

Opioid epidemic has dramatically affected all regions of the United States, but it has hit Rural America especially hard; now having the highest overdose death rates. In 2016 alone, nearly 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, over half of these resulted from opioids. That is an average of over 174 people each day; this accounts for more than the total number of lives lost in vehicle accidents or gun-related homicides per year.  The Opioid crisis consists of the use and misuse of prescription drugs, heroin, and illicitly manufactured synthetic drugs such as fentanyl.

The National Farmers Union and American Farm Bureau Federation reveal that the rural opioid crisis has directly impacted as much as 74 percent of farmers. 45 percent of all rural adults state that the opiate epidemic has impacted them. The opioid epidemic leaves a trail of devastation for its victims and its families. It has a significant compounding effect throughout communities affecting the quality of life, reducing economic opportunity and rural prosperity at a rate of over $56 billion annually. Current rates of drug-related deaths in rural communities have far surpassed urban areas.

Challenges and Trends

Rural-urban mortality gap is influenced by socioeconomic differences, health-related behaviors, and access to health care services.

  • 77 percent of rural agricultural workers state that it is easy to obtain large quantities of prescription opioids and painkillers without a prescription in their communities
  • 31 percent of rural adults are unaware that the opioid crisis is more prevalent in rural communities. Majority of adults believe that it is a major problem in urban areas, but not in their rural communities
  • Limited access to treatment and facilities
  • Shame and stigma concerning drug abuse and addiction

CVM Impact Opportunities

  • Awareness and education for rural communities

  • Connectedness between individuals, families, and communities

  • Mentor training to establish programs in communities and schools

  • Advocacy, awareness, and connection to available resources

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Rural Suicide

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2017, rural communities have consistently higher suicide rates than urban areas. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10- 24 in the United States. There is approximately one suicide every 12 minutes in the U.S.

Suicide rates in rural America have climbed significantly and persistently in occurrence by over 40% just in past 16 years; major cities saw a 10% increase during the same time period. While suicide knows no boundaries; there are known risk factors that contribute to escalating suicidal ideation,
non-fatal attempts and fatal suicides across certain age, economic, geographic, social, and ethnic groups.

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Over 44,000 Americans die from suicide every year, for every fatal suicide there are over 25 attempts; this equals over 1 million attempts per year in the U.S.

Fontanella CA, Hiance-Steelesmith DL, Phillips GS, et al. Widening Rural-Urban Disparities in Youth Suicides, United States, 1996-2010. JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(5):466–473. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.3561

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Source: CDC

Challenges and Trends

  • Risk factors include a history of bullying, child abuse, and violence
  • History of prior suicide attempts increases the risk
  • Lack of social support and resources
  • Shame and stigma towards mental health issues including depression and suicidal ideation
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CVM Impact Opportunities

Awareness and early prevention strategies are vital to reducing the likelihood of a person developing suicidal thoughts and then acting upon them. Promote connectedness through youth mentoring and peer engagement programs, promote community connectedness and involvement, provide prevention intervention through evidence-based training.

  • Awareness and education for rural communities

  • Connectedness between individuals, families, and communities

  • Advocacy and connection to available resources

  • Youth mentoring relationships and support to promote personal development, leadership, and continuing education

Rural Poverty rates

Rural America has not yet recovered to its pre-recession level. Rural poverty rates continue to surpass overall U.S. poverty rates. Since 2011 the job growth rate has been well below the urban job growth rate. Rural median household incomes remain below those of urban areas attributing to higher poverty rates in rural communities. Although the overall national poverty rates have decreased across urban and rural populations, rural poverty rates remain higher than the U.S. national average according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The most recent data indicates that the national average poverty rate for the U.S. was 14.5 percent in 2013. The official poverty rate in rural communities was 16.1 percent.

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Rural poverty rates have been persistently higher for at least three generations

There are over 41 counties in the United States where the child poverty rates exceed 50 percent,  with 38 of these counties classified as rural. The highest U.S. child poverty rates in rural counties are between 50 and 70.9 percent. More than 34 percent of rural families headed by a female with no spouse present live in significant poverty. Teen birth rates in rural America continue to surpass the urban birth rates by 60 percent. Less than 29 percent of rural youth enroll in higher education, compared to nearly 50 percent of all urban youth.

Poverty is linked to depression and suicide in rural America.

Challenges and Trends

Nearly 25 percent of rural children in the U.S. are growing up in poverty as compared to 20 percent of urban children.

Poverty contributes to poorer health conditions, higher crime and increased school dropout rates.

Rural communities have the highest infant morbidity and mortality rates.

Poverty is significantly linked to depression and suicide.

CVM Impact Opportunities

  • Awareness and education for rural communities

  • Connectedness between individuals, families, and communities

  • Advocacy and connection to available resources

  • Youth mentoring relationships and support  to promote personal development, leadership, and continuing education

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Our Ministry Impact and Opportunity

Our mission is to impact Rural America for positive and lasting change by directly connecting with community leaders, schools, and churches to offer best practice youth mentor training, education, and awareness for their community. Reaching youth and families through the love of Christ to bring hope and restoration. Our mobile ministry is a charitable 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is dependent upon your donations to provide current and future services.
By establishing and developing ongoing relationships to implement the most current research and to access available resources specifically designed for rural communities is our goal. We are grateful to have connected and partnered with many local, regional and national resources including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

We reach and impact rural communities across the U.S., so many volunteer opportunities exist to join us on this mission to restore America. 

Are you looking for a way to positively influence youth and families across the U.S.?

Are you looking for a way to impact your community and be a youth mentor facilitator or volunteer?

Do you have life skills and experience that could be applied to bring about positive change?

Do you desire to influence the youth of today?

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Both virtual and on-site volunteers are needed to accomplish such a goal, and many opportunities to volunteer exist.

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