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Disparities Between US Opioid Overdose Deaths and Treatment Capacity

A Geospatial and Descriptive Analysis

Langabeer, James R., PhD; Gourishankar, Anand, MD, MRCP; Chambers, Kimberly A., MD; Giri, Sharmila, MS; Madu, Renita, MPAS, PA-C; Champagne-Langabeer, Tiffany, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000523
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Introduction: With opioid-related deaths reaching epidemic levels, gaining a better understanding of access to treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) is critical. Most studies have focused on 1 side of the equation—either provider capacity or patients’ need for care, as measured by overdose deaths. This study examines the overlay between treatment program availability and opioid mortality, comparing accessibility by region.

Methods: Geospatial and statistical analyses were used to model OUD treatment programs relative to population density and opioid overdose death incidence at the state and county level. We computed a ratio between program capacity and mortality called the programs-per-death (PPD) ratio.

Results: There were 40 274 opioid deaths in 2016 and 12 572 treatment programs across the contiguous 48 states, yielding a ratio of 1 program for every 3.2 deaths. Texas had the lowest number of treatment programs per 100 000 persons (1.4) and Maine the highest (13.2). West Virginia ranked highest in opioid deaths (39.09 per 100 000). Ohio, the District of Columbia, and West Virginia had the greatest mismatch between providers and deaths, with an average of 1 program for every 8.5 deaths. Over 32% of US counties had no treatment programs and among those with >10 deaths, nearly 2.5% had no programs. Over 19% of all counties had a ratio ≤1 provider facility per 10 deaths.

Conclusion: Assessing the overlay between treatment capacity and need demonstrated that regional imbalances exist. These data can aid in strategic planning to correct the mismatch and potentially reduce mortality in the most challenged geographic regions.

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX.

Send correspondence to James R. Langabeer, PhD, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX 77030. E-mail: James.R.Langabeer@uth.tmc.edu

Received 4 December, 2018

Accepted 9 February, 2019

© 2019 American Society of Addiction Medicine