Small Towns Can Spell Big Trouble for Persons with Substance Use Disorders

Small Towns Can Spell Big Trouble for Persons with Substance Use Disorders

Studies show that persons in rural areas are significantly less likely to receive care for substance use disorders (SUD) than city dwellers. The evidence suggests that treatment disparities between rural and urban residents are not limited to opioid use disorders. They also span a range of addiction diseases such as alcohol use disorder. Studies also show that not only are those who live in rural areas less likely to initiate treatment but they’re also less likely to complete the recommended course of care.

However experts suggest that getting to the roots of the problem will require a sustained and multi-pronged approach. This is because persons who live in rural areas of the US face not just one barrier to care but many.

Among the most significant of these is the dearth of care providers in these areas. These shortages of behavioral and mental healthcare centers and addiction recovery specialists. This means that rural residents will often need to travel far from home to receive the care they need.

The frequency of treatment during early recovery may include up to five days of outpatient care per week. That makes the process untenable for adults who also have work and family responsibilities. A lack of access to reliable transportation and high fuel costs also make traveling great distances to receive care unfeasible for many rural residents.

In addition to these geographical barriers to treatment are the financial ones. Studies show that the care provided to most rural residents is out of network. This means that they will incur far more significant out of pocket costs than their urban counterparts for the same level of care.

Rural residents’ treatment expenses on everything from counseling to pharmacotherapy to transportation and beyond often those of city dwellers. Urban areas typically enjoy a host of therapeutic options and a selection of care providers who are in network with clients’ insurance plans.

Given the multitude of obstacles to care for the vast majority of Americans not living in the cities and suburbs, experts have advanced a new Collective Care Model to increase rural residents’ physical and financial access to treatment. One of the most important features of this new standard of care is the integrative approach that enlists patients’ primary care providers in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of SUD.

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