Impact of the Opioid Crisis on Rural Emergency Departments

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2016
Anticipated completion date:
December 2020

The impact of the current opioid crisis has been severe in rural communities. Prior research suggests that rates of death due to opioid poisoning have increased more rapidly in rural than in urban areas, and may now be higher in some predominantly rural states. However, we do not know whether the opioid epidemic places a disproportionate burden on rural emergency departments (EDs). The proposed project will address this research gap. Its principal aims are: (1) to determine whether rates of opioid-related ED visits have changed over time in rural and urban areas, and whether these changes have resulted in greater rural-urban disparities, (2) to test for rural-urban differences in rates of inpatient admission and death following opioid-related visits, and (3) to examine whether sources of payment for opioid-related ED visits differ across rural and urban settings. To achieve these aims, we will conduct quantitative analyses of data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS). We will convene a panel of experts on rural emergency medicine, rural hospitals, and rural opioid abuse to work with us on refining the study design and understanding the implications of our findings for policy and practice. Products will include a policy brief; an article submitted to a peer-reviewed journal; and conference presentations at the annual meetings of the National Rural Health Association and the National Association for Rural Mental Health.