Substance Abuse Prevention

How do community partners work to reduce the substance abuse issues in North Idaho?


• Create an environment of responsible opioid prescribing in North Idaho.
• Support and promote relevant, evidence-based substance abuse information.
• Support improved community access to substance abuse services.


• Increase public knowledge of responsible opioid prescribing in North Idaho.
• Improve provider education and systems issues.
• Increase alternatives for pain management.
• Increase public awareness of risk and harm of substance abuse.
• Expand harm reduction practices.
• Increase access to substance abuse resources.
•  Advocate and promote housing for people recovering.

Substance abuse refers to long-term use of alcohol or drugs that has a negative impact on behaviors and health outcomes. Substance abuse impacts individuals, families and the community. According to the Idaho Substance Abuse Prevention Needs Assessment, there are several contributing factors such as population density, and economic vitality that influence and impact substance abuse in communities (Policy, 2017) . 

The types of drug use differ from rural and urban settings, and changes in population can also leave an economy struggling. Depressed economies, with lower educational attainment and income, may have fewer opportunities for engaging in healthy behaviors and accessing health services.

In recent years, north Idaho has seen a steady increase in substance abuse issues. This challenge was echoed throughout the Forces of Change Assessment for every county. Many people attributed the rise in substance abuse to the proximity to Washington which recently legalized marijuana. Also, being on the I-90 and highway 95 corridors brings in people from all over the country.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Accessed via the Health Indicators Warehouse. 2006-12.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics System. Accessed via CDC WONDER. 2012-16. Data for Boundary, Benewah, and Shoshone counties were not reported by the CDC; the CDC suppresses data that may be personally identifiable in small populations. 

Although all counties in north Idaho are suffering from the consequences of substance abuse, Shoshone and Benewah counties had the highest proportion of respondents who said drug abuse was a significant health problem in their community. 

The Community Themes and Strengths assessment found that a greater proportion of respondents felt that drug abuse was a significant health behavior, followed by alcohol abuse. Drug abuse was also identified as a significant health problem in north Idaho. With the increase in drug use, there has been an increase in overdose related deaths. 

Between 2012-2016, 44.8% of overdose deaths in north Idaho specified an opioid drug on the death certificate (Welfare, 2017). According to the State of Idaho’s Opioid Needs Assessment compiled in 2017, most drug-induced deaths in Idaho are categorized as accidental. Both Shoshone and Benewah have some of the highest unemployment rates in north Idaho (Commerce, 2017) . Also, from 2012-2016 in Benewah County, there was a -3.52% change in population and Shoshone had a -1.67% change in population (Commerce, 2017) .

Use the drop-down menu above to see data for each of the five counties in the Panhandle. 


Although there are limited resources to assist with substance abuse issues. North Idaho has two inpatient centers: Port of Hope and Kootenai Health Chemical Dependency Unit.  There are some outpatient recovery centers in Kootenai County: Sequel Alliance Family Services, Restored Paths, Rathdrum Counseling, Abundant Wellness, Ascent Counseling, Ambitions Tamarack Treatment and Counseling, Alcohol and Drug Counseling and Recovery Services. Currently there are limited resources for individuals seeking care or treatment for substance abuse in Boundary, Bonner, Shoshone and Benewah Counties.

Alignment with State and National Priorities

The Idaho Office of Drug Policy has created the Idaho Opioid Misuse and Overdose Strategic Plan for 2017-2022. Many of the state’s strategies to improve the opioid crisis have been adopted for northern Idaho’s strategic plan for substance abuse. 

Additionally, Healthy People 2020 has set a goal to reduce substance abuse to protect the health, safety, and quality of life for all--especially children. Healthy People 2020 has set objectives that focus on increasing the proportion of adolescents who disapprove of substance abuse, increase the proportion of persons who need alcohol and/or illicit drug treatment and received specialty treatment for abuse or dependence in the past year, reduce past-month use of illicit substance abuse and reduce the past-year non-medical use of prescription drugs.