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Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


The opioid epidemic has continued to soar throughout the United States for over 20 years. While this epidemic knows no boundaries and affects all of America, rural communities have been drastically impacted by the number of persons suffering from this addiction, and the resulting staggering mortality rates. Rural populations face greater treatment barriers preventing patients from obtaining needed services as compared to other geographical locations. Patients face obstacles related to accessibility, availability, and stigmatization, placing them at higher risk for opioid misuse, abuse, and/or death. Even though this targeted population faces multiple complications in seeking treatment, transportation barriers are among the most prominent, preventing patients from obtaining opioid addiction services.

The first product completed was a systematic literature review aimed at answering “what social work administrators need to know about treatment barriers to enhance utilization of opioid addiction services in rural America.” The purpose of conducting a systematic literature review was to examine extant literature on the following barriers: accessibility, availability, and stigmatization. The findings of this study supported the identification of transportation as one of the most significant barriers in rural areas. From these findings, this paper developed implications to social work practice by providing recommendations to enhance opioid addiction treatment in rural areas.

The second product completed was a conceptual paper that explored existing literature in relation to transportation in rural communities. While potential solutions have been implemented to reduce barriers in rural areas, there is still a gap in services for this population. A systematic approach was used to examine the need for enhancement of transportation access for treatment adherence among rural communities. A new innovative approach was introduced in the conceptual paper outlining the need for agencies to examine transportation from within their own communities because each rural area is unique and different. This innovative approach supports the finding that if X (transportation) is not improved, then Y (persons suffering and fatality rates) will not decline.

The third product explored the innovative approach of each rural community examining the barriers of transportation preventing patients from obtaining needed treatment. The purpose of this practice application/implementation paper was to review existing literature on rural transportation challenges, the impact of patients not being able to obtain treatment, and the effect of mortality rates on the community and loved ones. These findings resulted in two strategic plans being outlined for rural agencies and organizations to enhance the utilization of opioid addiction treatment in their own community. The need for access to transportation to enhance opioid addiction treatment is vital in abstinence and recovery.

Without transportation barriers being reduced, rural communities will continue to see an increase in both the numbers of persons suffering from opioid addiction, and associated mortality rates. Because attendance is crucial for effective treatment outcomes, patients need to have access to transportation to access services. It is most likely that rural patients will be unsuccessful in terms of treatment program participation when they are unable to attend appointments.

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