Study: Medicaid enrollees have limited access to opioid treatment programs

Drug treatment programs for low-income individuals with opioid use disorders are scarce in many areas of the country where opioid abuse rates are high, according to a study recently published in the journal Health Services Research.

For the study, researchers examined data on 1,160 opioid treatment programs located across 465 counties in 48 states and Washington, D.C. Among these opioid addiction recovery programs, 750 accepted Medicaid. These programs were not evenly distributed across the nation — researchers found most counties did not have opioid treatment programs that accepted Medicaid patients.

Researchers discovered low-income Americans covered by Medicaid had little access to opioid addiction services in the Great Plains and Southeastern regions, including Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee. In 2015, an estimated 1,450 Tennessee residents died of a drug overdose.

Amanda Abraham, PhD, an assistant professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia in Athens and the study's lead author, told HealthDay there is a higher concentration of for-profit treatment providers that don't accept Medicaid patients in the South. Also, Medicaid programs in regions like the South also offer coverage for substance abuse disorder treatment less frequently than in other parts of the country.

"In the midst of an escalating opioid epidemic, treatment in opioid treatment programs are almost nonexistent for low-income Americans — Medicaid enrollees — in a majority of the country," said Dr. Abraham.

More articles on opioids: 
Opioids fuel 50% spike in drug overdose deaths in NYC 
Rutgers releases toolkit to combat opioid epidemic in New Jersey 
Louisiana governor backs legislation to limit opioid prescriptions

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