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Strengthening the Heartland

Upcoming Webinars

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How to Support Youth with Disordered Eating

Join us as Alyssa Wood presents on how to support youth with disordered eating. The live webinar will be March 30, 2023, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM CST

Register for the Webinar


About the Project

Strengthening the Heartland (STH) developed through the collaborative efforts of faculty from South Dakota State University Extension and North Dakota State University Extension. With generous grant support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Strengthening the Heartland is dedicated to providing services that prevent opioid misuse in rural communities across the Dakotas.

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Given the unique risk factors associated with the agriculture industry, conditions are right for significant increases in prescription opioid misuse in North Dakota and South Dakota if more prevention efforts are not instituted. Strengthening the Heartland (STH) is dedicated to providing opioid education in rural communities, with particular emphasis on those in the farming/ranching industry, directly through a prescription opioid misuse prevention program and a public health campaign.

Farming/ranching is often a family business with spouses and children involved with production and management. Therefore, when agriculture-related challenges occur such as unpredictable weather, economic changes or injury, the accompanying stress affects the whole family. These stressors are risk factors for prescription opioid misuse. Of significant concern when addressing substance misuse is access to mental healthcare. Unfortunately, rural areas routinely experience inadequate access to services. Over 90% of counties in both North and South Dakota are classified as mental health professional shortage areas meaning the number of mental healthcare providers is not adequate based on need. To address the risk of opioid misuse, STH facilitates evidence-emerging prescription opioid misuse prevention programs, while also providing resources for front line professionals who support rural communities in North and South Dakota. 

Learn More about our Team


Adult Program

The Opioid Public Health Crisis. For adults, this 1-hour presentation addresses opioid misuse, risk factors and suggested prevention methods. The program is ideal for parents, employees, employers, teachers and services providers.

More about Adult Program

Teen Program

This is (Not) About Drugs. This 1-hour, media-based presentation is targeted toward youth in grades 6-12. The program helps youth raise awareness of the risks of misusing prescription opioids, and encourages youth to seek alternatives to substances when dealing with stress. The presentation is great for schools, clubs, youth groups, youth conferences or after-school programs.

More about Teen Program


Service providers are working hard to offer a wide range of resources to individuals across each state. Click below for resources in your area.

Strengthening the Heartland News

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SDSU researchers set to host webinar series this fall

This fall, Strengthening the Heartland, a collaborative project between South Dakota State University and North Dakota State University, is set to a host a series of free educational webinars. The schedule for the webinar series is below:...

SDSU researchers working to fill in educational gaps for rural students

In the United States, roughly one-sixth of all K-12 students attend rural school districts. These students face many challenges and are often hampered by both a lack of funding and resources. ...

Free seminars help South Dakotans learn about opioids, prevent misuse

Nearly 2,500 adolescents and adults in rural communities across South Dakota are better prepared to prevent opioid misuse, thanks to free educational seminars provided through SDSU Extension’s Strengthening the Heartland Program.