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Community Health Centers Have Seen an Increase in the Share of Patients with Opioid Addiction

A majority of community health centers have seen a rising number of patients with opioid addiction over the last three years, according to a new issue brief released by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Nearly seven in 10 (69%) health centers reported an increase in patients with an addiction to prescription opioids and a similar share (63%) reported an increase in patients with an addiction to nonprescription opioids such as heroin and fentanyl. The findings of the survey of community health centers are consistent with national trends and reflect a growing opioid epidemic whose impacts have been especially devastating in the medically underserved rural and urban areas where many health centers are located.

Community Health Centers, the primary source of health care for many low-income Americans, are addressing the epidemic through a combination of prevention, treatment, overdose reversal and safe prescribing practices. Researchers at KFF and the Geiger Gibson Program in Community Health Policy at the George Washington University conducted the online survey of the nation’s more than 1,300 community health centers from early January to late February, drawing responses from 489 centers in 49 states and Washington D.C.

Key findings include:

  • Nearly half (48%) of health centers provide medications as part of medication-assisted treatment, considered to be the most effective opioid use disorder treatment.
  • Health centers face treatment capacity challenges; 63 percent of centers that provide medication-assisted treatment report that they do not have the capacity to treat all patients with opioid use disorder.
  • Health centers in Medicaid expansion states appear to be more equipped to respond to the epidemic. For instance, they are more likely to provide medication-assisted treatment than those in non-expansion states (54% vs. 38%).

To see more of KFF’s work related to the opioid epidemic visit our special resource page on this topic.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.