Addiction can happen to any person, anywhere, at any socioeconomic level.
When people think about substance abuse, however, they often envision the slums of large cities over the vast countryside and quaint main streets of the small town and rural life.
Addiction does strike in rural areas, even though it’s not discussed as often. These sparsely populated areas pose unique challenges for individuals who’ve become addicted, as well as their communities and treatment providers.
Risks in Rural Areas
According to the Rural Health Information Hub, the key factors that contribute to substance abuse in rural areas are:
- Low educational attainment
- High-risk behaviors
While all of these risk factors also exist in more urbanized areas, a person may be able to overcome them more readily in an environment where there are more jobs in general, public transportation is cheap and readily available, and there are more social service programs provided. Rural areas often don’t have as many of these resources to combat the issues above.
Overcoming Barriers to Treatment
The supports that are lacking in overcoming risks are often also factors that create barriers to treatment of all types, including medical, dental, mental health, and substance abuse care. These barriers are not insurmountable, however. As pointed out by a recent article in The Atlantic, entitled “The Transportation Barrier“, there are numerous strategies that can be used to overcome the obstacles that prevent people from getting treatment for their various needs.
Bringing Treatment to the Patient
Strategies designed to improve access to care include:
- Deploy RNs, Community Health Workers (CHWs), and Case Managers to rural homes.
- Use mobile clinics connected to larger urban centers to respond to needs in rural areas.
- Implement telemedicine to allow a person to essentially “face time” with their doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, or other providers via a secured system.
Providing Transportation to People in Need
Sometimes, it is just not an option for the provider to come to the patient. This includes instances where a patient is using MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) to promote their sobriety.
According to the National Rural Health Association, rural doctors cannot keep up with the demand for MAT services. Whether it is because the service doesn’t exist locally or because there is an insufficient number of practitioners to keep up with the demand, there are times when services that must be rendered in person require travel by the patient.
The Medicaid system has found a way around the need to travel for care. Because people who receive Medicaid are generally low income, they are less likely to own vehicles. Therefore, they may be unable to get to the treatment they need without some support if they live in rural areas without public transit options.
Medicaid patients nationwide, including those in Virginia, are eligible for rides to attend appointments with their doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, and other providers. This reduces the odds that they will wait until there is a medical emergency to seek care. While the practice of providing rides is less commonly offered by private insurance companies, it is available in some areas.
At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we are happy to assist our guests in making travel arrangements to our program, if needed.
Adjusting Treatment Options
Instead of providing frequent transportation for a person to reside at home while they attend outpatient treatment, some insurance companies may ask that the recovery center offer a boarding option once the person no longer needs inpatient treatment. This may be utilized when the home environment is not supportive of sobriety or when driving to and from a treatment program is not geographically viable. At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we are able to assist patients in accessing sober living following inpatient treatment.
Often, traditional medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment channels can become overwhelmed by an abundance of referrals, lack of financial resources, and an insufficient number of practitioners. The professionals helping a person in recovery may be so fixated on the measurable outcomes they are expected to address that they never get to the matter of isolation, which afflicts many people in rural areas who are struggling with addiction.
The person in recovery may have to look outside these spheres to address the need for a strong support system:
- Alumni Events – At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we encourage our program graduates to nurture the friendships they made while in treatment and to utilize opportunities we provide to stay in touch and support each other after discharge.
- Peer Support Specialists/Recovery Coaches – People who’ve lived through their own recovery journey, who have now become certified to support others who are struggling with their own recovery, can offer a valuable perspective on the challenges faced in early sobriety.
- AA/NA Sponsors – Sponsors are individuals with at least one year of sobriety who are volunteering to guide newcomers through the program.
- Peer Recovery Centers – These drop-in centers provide a safe space for a person in recovery to spend time with other people who are also trying to build healthier lives. They can provide social opportunities, support groups, interactions with trained and certified peer coaches, and referrals to appropriate community resources.
- Online Recovery Supports – The internet is home to many different types of support groups. People who’ve lost a loved one, suffered from domestic violence or child abuse, struggle with physical pain, have mental health diagnoses, or are in recovery from addiction can all find other people on the internet who are also recovering from the same struggles.
At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we are ready to help address the barriers to treatment, whether those barriers are the result of finances, location, mental health, or other obstacles in the lives of our guests and their families.