Assessment of Community-Level Vulnerability and Access to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

Paul J. Joudrey, Marynia Kolak, Qinyun Lin, Susan Paykin, Vidal Anguiano, Emily A. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Given that COVID-19 and recent natural disasters exacerbated the shortage of medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) services and were associated with increased opioid overdose mortality, it is important to examine how a community's ability to respond to natural disasters and infectious disease outbreaks is associated with MOUD access. Objective: To examine the association of community vulnerability to disasters and pandemics with geographic access to each of the 3 MOUDs and whether this association differs by urban, suburban, or rural classification. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study of zip code tabulation areas (ZCTAs) in the continental United States excluding Washington, DC, conducted a geospatial analysis of 2020 treatment location data. Exposures: Social vulnerability index (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measure of vulnerability to disasters or pandemics). Main Outcomes and Measures: Drive time in minutes from the population-weighted center of the ZCTA to the ZCTA of the nearest treatment location for each treatment type (buprenorphine, methadone, and extended-release naltrexone). Results: Among 32604 ZCTAs within the continental US, 170 within Washington, DC, and 20 without an urban-rural classification were excluded, resulting in a final sample of 32434 ZCTAs. Greater social vulnerability was correlated with longer drive times for methadone (correlation, 0.10; 95% CI, 0.09 to 0.11), but it was not correlated with access to other MOUDs. Among rural ZCTAs, increasing social vulnerability was correlated with shorter drive times to buprenorphine (correlation,-0.10; 95% CI,-0.12 to-0.08) but vulnerability was not correlated with other measures of access. Among suburban ZCTAs, greater vulnerability was correlated with both longer drive times to methadone (correlation, 0.22; 95% CI, 0.20 to 0.24) and extended-release naltrexone (correlation, 0.15; 95% CI, 0.13 to 0.17). Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, communities with greater vulnerability did not have greater geographic access to MOUD, and the mismatch between vulnerability and medication access was greatest in suburban communities. Rural communities had poor geographic access regardless of vulnerability status. Future disaster preparedness planning should match the location of services to communities with greater vulnerability to prevent inequities in overdose deaths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E227028
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number4
StateAccepted/In press - Apr 19 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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