National Health Service Corps
According to its website, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) was established in 1972, as a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a federally funded agency to address the medical and psychological needs of underserved populations, wherever they are found in the United States, from rural and mountainous areas to certain inner city communities. As of 2006, an estimated fifty million Americans are without access to healthcare services, including medical and psychological support. Since its beginning in 1972, approximately 23,000 healthcare professionals have participated in the programs that seek to deliver support services to people who normally do not have them. In 1987, Congress authorized a NHSC student loan repayment plan for medical professionals who establish and maintain a practice in a geographic location which the NHSC has identified as underserved. According to a 2000 statement by the National Association of Community Health Centers, the primary problem with NHSC is limited federal funding. That association suggested that at least five times as many practitioners are needed to begin to meet the needs of underserved U.S. populations. According to the NHSC website, in 2006, some 2,700 professionals were involved in the various programs, serving the needs of several million U.S. citizens.
Rural Substance Abuse and Poverty
Rural areas in the 1990s witnessed an increase in instances of substance abuse. According to a 2003 report published by Hazelden, rural youngsters were more likely to use some drugs than their urban counterparts. For years, many believed that drug abuse mostly occurred in urban settings and rural areas were relatively free of the problem. In fact, according to a report funded by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), illegal drug use was found to be higher among rural eighth graders than those children living in cities. These rural children were 83 percent more likely to use cocaine and 43 percent more likely to use marijuana. Among twelfth graders, rural teens used inhalants, amphetamines, and cocaine more frequently than those students in the same grade living in cities. According to the Hazelden report, as drug enforcement is more effective in urban settings, illegal drug activities have moved increasingly into less enforced rural areas. To illustrate the point, Hazelden cites that the DEA in 1994 seized 263 labs which were manufacturing methamphetamines, and in 1998, it uncovered 1,627 labs with most of those located in the rural Midwest and West.
The problem, in part, is that in low population areas, law enforcement must cover large distances in order to locate illegal activities but does not have sufficient money or numbers of officers to do so. Drug abuse in rural areas correlates with poverty. In a 2002 New York Times article, Timothy Egan mapped out “a generations-old downward spiral in the countryside,” in which “the hollowed-out economy has led to a frightening rise in crime and drug abuse.” The crime is directly connected to “a methamphetamine epidemic.” In this article, Allen Curtis, executive director of the Nebraska Crime Commission, is quoted as saying, “Meth seems to be everywhere in Nebraska right now.” Between 1994 and 2002, the use of this drug nationwide tripled. But its abuse in rural, thinly populated places is exceptionally high. For example, according to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, in Wyoming, the state with the smallest population, estimates for 2002 suggested that 1 percent of the population required treatment for methamphetamine addiction. Abusers of methamphetamine “tend to be erratic, violent and in some cases, borderline psychotic—especially when on a sleepless binge.” All of this information is relevant to Jason Buckholdt’s addiction and fate.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 24, Adam Haslett, Published by Gale Group, 2006