Rural, Urban Drive Times to Nearest Opioid Treatment Programs Differ



Media advisory: To contact corresponding author Paul J. Joudrey, M.D., M.P.H., email Bill Hathaway at The full study is linked to this news release.

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Bottom Line: Comparing drive times to the nearest opioid treatment programs in urban and rural counties in five U.S. states with the highest county rates of opioid-related overdose deaths was the focus of this research letter. Methadone for treating opioid use can only be dispensed from certified treatment programs in the United States, of which there is a shortage in rural counties. This analysis included 489 counties in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Among all the counties, average drive time to the nearest opioid treatment programs was 37 minutes. Longer drive times were associated with rural counties compared with urban ones, with driving times ranging from 41 to 49 minutes in rural counties compared with eight to 35 minutes in urban counties. Longer drive times in the most rural counties could be reduced from 49 minutes to 17 minutes if methadone prescribing occurred at federally qualified health centers (federally supported primary care clinics). Limitations of the study include drive times were county-level population estimates, individual drive times within counties vary, and the geographic availability of methadone in urban areas was likely overestimated because of public transportation.

Authors: Paul J. Joudrey, M.D., M.P.H., Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, and coauthors



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