Large gaps in opioid treatment remain for rural areas
Areas hit hardest by the opioid epidemic still struggle with access to buprenorphine, used to treat addiction according to a recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services' internal watchdog.
Where it stands: The federal government has expanded the list of which providers can prescribe buprenorphine, as well as the number of patients those providers can treat.
Yes, but: Authorizing more providers to prescribe the drug doesn't do much to solve, for example, provider shortages in rural areas. And some providers who are authorized to prescribe buprenorphine just aren't doing so.
- Most authorized providers don't see the maximum allowed number of patients.
- 40% of U.S. counties don't have any authorized providers, and another 24% have low treatment capacity. Most of these counties are rural, and there's plenty of overlap with the counties hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.
- Even in counties that appear to have average-to-high treatment capacities, that could be misleading — especially in large counties where an authorized provider may be located far away from the patient.
The bottom line: Even though we're making progress against the opioid epidemic, we've still got a very long way to go.
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