Washington Addiction Statistics
Knowingly or not, many people associate drug use and addiction with city life. The truth is surprising – drug overdose rates have hit rural areas particularly hard. Data from the PEW Charitable Trusts paints a grim picture of substance use and its consequences. Between 1999 and 2015, rural overdose deaths skyrocketed by 325 percent. In 2015, drug-associated deaths in rural areas surpassed the rates in urban areas.
Barriers to Treatment in Rural Areas
Perhaps the most significant obstacle faced by rural communities is the reduced access to quality care. This is mostly attributable to physical distance. Those suffering from substance use disorders require intervention from professional addiction specialists, and numerous studies have shown that those who live closer to a health facility have better outcomes. In urban areas, there are often several programs to choose from within city limits, many of which are easily accessible through public transit. Those in the country often have to drive greater distances to receive treatment, and they may have just one or two centers to choose from. This issue is compounded for those in outpatient programs, who must drive to and from a center every day instead of residing on the premises.
For rural areas, the few existing facilities may offer limited services, compromising the level of care offered to patients. Rural centers rely more on public funds to care for patients and create new approaches to treatment; this means that a lack of funding can impact the evidence-based care available, reducing individualized treatment options and access to specialists overall.
Addressing the Issues
Fortunately, researchers have identified these patterns and have worked to create solutions. With time, they are optimistic that outcomes will improve for those seeking addiction treatment in rural Washington. Telemedicine is on the rise, enabling far-flung providers to submit prescriptions while also granting rural patients access to remote physicians. Retrospective analysis of West Virginia’s Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Treatment program – their foray into telemedicine – found that rates of treatment retention and abstinence from drug use were comparable to in-person care.
Experts also encourage local governments to craft innovative, location-specific responses to the opioid epidemic. Each town and county is different, meaning that a unique approach is required to effectively reach residents. For example, Scott County, Indiana responded to their local public health crisis by creating a “one-stop shop” for treatment and support. In addition to medication management and primary care, patients received clothes, meals, help finding a job, and assistance with the health insurance enrollment process.
SAMHSA Grant Awarded to Washington State University
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded a grant of $1.1 million dollars to a team of Washington State University faculty members. The funds are earmarked for efforts focused on providing training and technical assistance to rural Washington communities that are fighting the opioid epidemic.
Faculty members say that the grant money will be used to establish the Center for Rural Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery. Their goal is to provide these rural communities with effective methods to combat the opioid epidemic.
“This project brings together our outstanding WSU team made up of prevention experts and extension faculty in CAHNRS and our treatment experts in the Colleges of Medicine and Nursing to provide a wide range of supports to rural communities,” said Michael McDonell, associate professor and director of Behavioral Health Innovations.
The grant is a victory for each of the colleges, as previous funds have primarily been funneled to Washington’s large urban communities. WSU is excited to provide prevention and treatment to rural communities seeking to overcome addiction.
“The key to long-term success in addressing the opioid epidemic involves not only meeting current needs but investing in prevention strategies to stem the tide,” stated Elizabeth Weybright, assistant professor and adolescent extension specialist.
Help for Rural Washington State
Lakeside-Milam recognizes the challenges faced by residents of rural Washington State. We believe that everyone deserves access to the highest quality of care, which is why we have established treatment centers in ten different locations throughout the state. Whether you’re closer to Puyallup or Issaquah, we’re standing by to help you begin your journey to recovery. After inpatient treatment, for those not in western Washington, we can help set up an aftercare treatment plan closer to your home. To learn more about our extensive network of services, contact us today.