Health Affairs  |  August 4, 2021

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 92,000 Americans died of an overdose in the 12 months ending in November 2020, which is up from fewer than 72,000 the year before and represents the highest number ever recorded. Ensuring access to evidence-based treatment is imperative to addressing the staggering opioid overdose death rate. Medications such as methadone are highly effective at treating opioid use disorder. Yet, there is a national shortage of opioid treatment providers (OTPs)—the only health care providers permitted under federal law to dispense methadone for opioid use disorder long term. To access treatment at an OTP, many must travel long distances, sometimes daily. Transportation issues and limited OTPs in rural areas decrease treatment retention and lead to higher rates of risk for opioid overdose.

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