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Rural Mainers with opioid use disorder face barriers to treatment as demand increases

FILE - This June 17, 2019, file photo shows 5-mg pills of Oxycodone. Native American tribes in the U.S. have reached settlements worth $590 million over opioids. A court filing made Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 in Cleveland lays out the details of the settlements with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and distribution companies AmerisoruceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.
Keith Srakocic
FILE - This June 17, 2019, file photo shows 5-mg pills of Oxycodone.

As the number of Mainers grappling with opioid use disorder has increased during the pandemic, access to treatment has not, especially in rural areas. That's according to a new report from the University of Southern Maine, in partnership with the University of Vermont.

The report surveyed health providers and people who work with rural Mainers with opioid use disorder. And some of the primary barriers to treatment that they witness are logistics, said Dr. Mary Lindsey Smith of the Catherine Cutler Institute at USM.

"Some of the things that are really high on that list are access to transportation, safe and secure housing, and then time," Smith said. "The time commitments that are associated with treatment and staying engaged in treatment."

Providers themselves also reported challenges delivering care because of a shortage of time and staffing. Smith said the report is being used by the state and health organizations to inform efforts to build treatment capacity.