To combat the growing opioid epidemic, people who use drugs need access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) as part of comprehensive treatment. Despite progress, treatment gaps remain. Our objective was to use a geospatial buffering model to estimate treatment access for buprenorphine providers nationally.
Using buprenorphine provider location data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and population estimates from the U.S. Census, we use geospatial distance buffering analyses to estimate the percent of the population who are within reasonable (10, 30, 50 mile) driving distances from a buprenorphine provider across the contiguous states. Pearson correlation coefficients were used to analyze relationships between variables.
There were 47,000 buprenorphine practitioners across the contiguous states, or 14.3 per every 100,000 persons. Approximately 28 million citizens, or 9.2 % of the population, were outside of a 10-mile distance from the nearest buprenorphine provider and 2.65 million outside of a 30-mile range. There was a positive correlation between state’s percentage rurality and percentage outside distance buffers (r = .491, p < .000) and access is lower in areas of higher need Texas had the absolute highest number of people outside the 10-mile distance buffer (3.7 million), although South Dakota had 46 % of its overall population outside that access point.
Wide variability in treatment access to buprenorphine providers exists across all states. Improving geospatial proximity to buprenorphine providers is an important goal, but more work needs to be done to improve treatment access especially in certain states.