(July 23, 2019)
A new study of opioid treatment calls 41 North Carolina counties “opioid high-risk,” reports North Carolina Health News. The study appears in the Journal of American Medical Association. Its criteria for “high-risk” have two parts: rates of fatal opioid overdose and also number of doctors giving opioid treatment. A county is high-risk if more people die from opioid overdoses than the national average (12.5 per 1000), and if fewer doctors provide opioid treatment than the national average (9.7 providers).
41 of North Carolina’s 100 counties are high-risk by these standards. But opioid response efforts are ongoing. Though the state recently received $12 million to combat its opioid crisis, access to medically-assisted treatments (MATs) has barriers which can make treatments inefficient. Namely, doctors must complete training and a waiver to be able to prescribe MATs to a small number of patients. Because of these restrictions, the state funds have so far treated only ten to twelve thousand patients. State behavioral health expert Kody Kinsey says, “The truth is, we’re still scratching the surface. We suspect one in 20 people have a substance use disorder in North Carolina.”