Opioid Recovery Deserts: Geographical mismatch between need for opioid use disorder recovery services and access to care

Authors: Harvey Miller*, The Ohio State University, Ayaz Hyder, The Ohio State University, Ashley Dundon, The Ohio State University, Gretchen Hammond, Mighty Crow Media, Jinhyung Lee, The Ohio State University, Adam Porr, The Ohio State University, Lauren T. Southerland, The Ohio State University
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Applied Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Opioid use disorder, accessibility, recovery desert, GIS
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Tyler, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In recent years the number of drug overdose deaths has reached epidemic levels. While efforts at the local, state, and national level are underway to reduce opioids prescriptions, less attention has been given to how individuals who are dependent on opioids are able to access treatment. Little is known about disparities in accessibility and availability of recovery/treatment centers for individuals. One possible reason for this lack of attention may be due to greater focus on clinical- and prescription-related factors rather than social determinants of health, such as transportation, housing, and poverty. This project identifies locations in the Columbus, Ohio, USA metropolitan region where access to opioid use disorder treatment services is lacking relative to the need for these services. We integrate address-level data on opioid overdose events from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies operating in Franklin County, Ohio, using these data as a surrogate for the demand for opioid recovery treatment services. We use hotspot analysis to identify areas with high concentrations of demand. Using high-resolution route and schedule information from the local transit authority, we compute travel times via public transit to treatment centers, identifying locations with poor access. We analyze whether these poor accessibility “recovery deserts” spatially associate with overdose hotspots. This information is essential for governmental agencies, community groups, and persons involved in efforts to combat the epidemic. It allows decision makers to prioritize accessibility to treatment services, either by expanding those services or by improving mobility for users to access existing services.

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