Skip to main content

Project Impact

Project Impact

THROUGH ROTA FUNDING, the multi-state team of South Dakota State University Extension and North Dakota State Extension developed into the collaborative known as Strengthening the Heartland. With a mission of providing services that prevent opioid misuse in rural communities across the Dakotas, Strengthening the Heartland has become a recognized entity among communities and stakeholders seeking resources.

Both SD and ND are classified as frontier states given the small population spread over a large geographic area. Therefore, rural communities in these states are often severely under-resourced. This is especially true for mental health resources as 90% of the counties in both SD and ND are mental health professional shortage areas. ROTA funding has allowed the Strengthening the Heartland team to provide accessible, high quality resources to individuals and professionals in locations that are frequently overlooked.

Key Outcomes

  • A total of 7,249 individuals from 63 rural communities have participated in an opioid misuse prevention presentation. Comparison of pre- and post-test survey data indicated a significant increase in opioid knowledge after participation.
  • A 9-webinar series on topics related to addiction was created. Webinars were facilitated by content professionals from across the U.S. The series has received 2,197 views from live attendees and recordings.
  • A total of 68 professionals received training to facilitate research-based, opioid/substance-use programming. 33 facilitators are able to provide the opioid misuse prevention presentation, and 35 facilitators were trained in the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Therapy) model. The program supports family members as they encourage a family member with an addiction to seek treatment.
  • A week-long, virtual Addictions Conference was offered to mental health professionals. Fifteen professionals provided hour-long sessions to a total of 460 attendees.95% of participants would recommend the event to a colleague, and 98% expected the information to benefit them in their professional positions.
  • Partnerships with 11 state and community organizations have developed including the SD Office of Rural Health, SD Counseling Association, ND County Social Services Offices, ND Continuing and Technical Education, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, Turtle Mountain Native American Reservation, and the SD Prevention Resource Centers, among others.
Map of communities reached in North and South Dakota

“Just wanted to let you know that the classes I took worked. During [my daughter’s] treatment we had 2 over-the-telephone counseling sessions with her counselor & [she] brought up how it was so much easier to talk to me. She said, “my mom is a different person and I really love my new mom!” She said, “If my mom was willing to take classes so she could communicate better with me, then I had to meet her half way.” So, I want to thank you so much for the classes, they were successful for me and my daughter.”


“Oh my word- This webinar is by far THE BEST information I have gotten on MI [motivational interviewing]!!!!! It is clear, organized, specific, offers examples, complete, understandable and I could go on. Thank you again for making this webinar available to us/me and please let me know if Alex presents again on similar topics. I’d be very interested.”

“On a good note, my daughter is in treatment at [redacted]. I drove her down on Sunday & she got admitted Monday. It was a long road but we are looking forward to better days ahead. Thank you for the sessions, they truly kept me strong during the time I needed strength.”

“I will return, this was a beautifully organized event with knowledgeable presenters.”

“Hi- just wanted to let you know I shared some of the material on Tips for Thriving with our Facebook page and it has been really popular. People seem to be engaging with it and sharing it with others. Great job!”

“I just received the package of self-care hack bookmarks and wanted to say thank you! I just loaded the website and look forward to learning more about the program. Rural areas are often overlooked--thank you so much for sharing this!”