FORT COLLINS — A new program at Colorado State University is aimed at preventing opioid abuse in rural parts of Colorado – particularly among youths.

The university received $1.4 million in federal grants for the two-year project, which will be led by members of CSU’s Prevention Research Center.

As part of the program, community professionals and CSU extension agents will be trained on dealing with opioid abuse. The approach will use existing community relationships and networks to try to prevent drug experimentation before it starts.

The effort will also include a seven-week program that engages youth and their families about the dangers of using opioids like heroin and oxycodone.

“We’re really excited about this project because we know opioid use is a big issue in rural America," said William Nobles, director of CSU Extension’s Peaks and Plains Region. “There is a lot of pressure on families in agricultural areas. We have farmers going through bankruptcy, and some have committed suicide. When you start working with youth, it trickles up to the adults as well.”

The project, titled Empowering Youth and Families in Rural Colorado, will also use social media as a platform to distribute data-informed messages in an effort to raise public awareness and help the youth develop correct perceptions about substance use.

Nearly $1.1 million for the two-year project came from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the remaining $320,000 for the project came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.