Disparities in Access to Opioid Treatment Programs and Office-Based Buprenorphine Treatment Across the Rural-Urban and Area Deprivation Continua: A US Nationwide Small Area Analysis [Editor's Choice]



To measure access to opioid treatment programs (OTPs) and office-based buprenorphine treatment (OBBTs) at the smallest geographic unit for which the Census Bureau publishes demographic and socioeconomic data (ie, block group) and to explore disparities in access to treatment across the rural-urban and area deprivation continua across the United States.


Access to OTPs and OBBTs at the block group in 2019 was quantified using an innovative 2-step floating catchment area technique that accounts for the supply of treatment facilities relative to the population size, proximity of facilities relative to the location of population in block groups, and time as a barrier within catchments. Block groups were stratified into tertiles based on the rural-urban continuum codes (metropolitan, micropolitan, small town, or rural) and area deprivation index (least-deprived, middle-deprived, most-deprived). The Integrated Nested Laplace Approximation approach was used for statistical analysis.


Across the United States, 3329 block groups corresponding to 2 915 949 adults lacked access to OTPs within a 2-hour drive of their community and 130 block groups corresponding to 86 605 adults did not have access to OBBTs. Disparities in access to treatment were observed across the urban-rural and area deprivation continua including (1) lowest mean access score to OBBTs were found among most-deprived small towns, and (2) lower mean access score to OTPs were found among micropolitan and small towns.


The results of this study revealed disparities in access to medication-assisted treatment. The findings call for creative initiatives and local and regional policies to develop to mitigate access problems.


Solmaz Amiri Michael G. McDonell Justin T. Denney Dedra Buchwald Ofer Amram

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