Geographies of treatment: Opioid use disorder and treatment mismatch in Appalachia

Authors: Travis Young*, Pennsylvania State University, Zhongyang He, Penn State University, Jennifer Baka, Penn State University, Zhen Lei, Penn State University
Topics: Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: Opioid use disorder; medication assisted treatment, Appalachia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 13
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For the better part of the last two decades, opioid use disorder has been regarded as a rural disease. However, provision of and access to the most effective, evidence-based treatment options has not matched those geographies. As opioid misuse has intensified in suburban and urban areas, the availability of medication assisted treatment (MAT) has significantly increased. Using a mixed-methods approach, we examine opioid overdose patterns and effective treatment options in Appalachian communities. We then examine the sociopolitical drivers of treatment availability in Logan County, WV – one of the hardest hit areas in the US. Our exploratory spatial analysis and in-depth interviews capture a complex picture of funding and healthcare disparities that disproportionately impact coal mining communities throughout Appalachia. In particular, our analysis shows a significant deficit of MAT options in coal communities where opioid overdose rates are higher, creating a treatment mismatch that reflects political and cultural motivations beyond healthcare best practices.

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