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Rural Health Information Hub

Rural Response to the Opioid Crisis – Models and Innovations

These stories feature model programs and successful rural projects that can serve as a source of ideas and provide lessons others have learned. Some of the projects or programs may no longer be active. Read about the criteria and evidence-base for programs included.

Evidence-Based Examples

Project ECHO® – Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes
Updated/reviewed October 2022
  • Need: Increase medical management knowledge for New Mexico primary care providers in order to provide care for the thousands of rural and underserved patients with hepatitis C, a chronic, complex condition that has high personal and public health costs when left untreated.
  • Intervention: Project leveraging an audiovisual platform to accomplish "moving knowledge, not patients" that used a "knowledge network learning loop" of disease-specific consultants and rural healthcare teams learning from each other and learning by providing direct patient care.
  • Results: In 18 months, the urban specialist appointment wait list decreased from 8 months to 2 weeks due to Hepatitis C patients receiving care from the project's participating primary care providers. Improved disease outcomes were demonstrated along with cost savings, including those associated with travel. The project model, now known as Project ECHO® – Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes — has evolved into a telementoring model used world-wide.

Effective Examples

Project Lazarus
Updated/reviewed November 2021
  • Need: To reduce overdose-related deaths among prescription opioid users in rural Wilkes County, North Carolina
  • Intervention: Education and tools are provided for prescribers, patients and community members to lessen drug supply and demand, and to reduce harm in prescription opioid use
  • Results: Opioid overdose death rates have decreased in Wilkes County
Vermont Hub-and-Spoke Model of Care for Opioid Use Disorder
Updated/reviewed August 2020
  • Need: Increase access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in rural Vermont.
  • Intervention: Statewide hub-and-spoke treatment access system.
  • Results: Increased treatment capacity and care coordination.
Midcoast Maine Prescription Opioid Reduction Program
Updated/reviewed May 2020
  • Need: Reduction in the number of emergency department dental patients abusing opioid prescriptions in rural southeastern Maine.
  • Intervention: Using a one-page opioid prescription guideline, opioid prescribing and emergency room visits for dental pain decreased.
  • Results: The rate of opioid prescription dropped nearly 20% after implementation, and in comparing the 12-month period before and after implementation, dental pain emergency department visits decreased from 26 to 21 per 1,000.

Other Project Examples

funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy funded by the Health Resources Services Administration ASPIN's Certified Recovery Specialist Program
Updated/reviewed September 2022
  • Need: Improved approach in addressing the behavioral health and primary care disparities of Indiana's underserved rural counties.
  • Intervention: A network was established that trained community health workers (CHW) to be certified health insurance enrollment navigators and provide mental health services.
  • Results: This year, ASPIN trained 230 CHWs, cross-trained 70 behavioral health case managers as CHWs, and 35 individuals in the Indiana Navigator Pre-certification Education.
Morrison County Accountable Community for Health
Updated/reviewed September 2022
  • Need: To combat prescription drug misuse in rural Morrison County, Minnesota.
  • Intervention: The Morrison County ACH brought together primary care, social services, law enforcement, and other partners to make sure that patients receive treatment and support.
  • Results: One pharmacy saw a 40% reduction in the number of prescribed opioids, and the ACH was able to taper 684 patients off opioids completely.
Seneca Strong's Certified Addiction Recovery Coaches
Updated/reviewed July 2022
  • Need: Like many Native American populations, the Seneca Nation of Indians has experienced disproportionate rates of opioid, alcohol, and substance misuse.
  • Intervention: The Seneca Nation Government and Executives founded Seneca Strong, a cultural recovery peer advocate program, with the goal of reducing substance misuse across the Nation.
  • Results: Seneca Strong has since grown in personnel and capacity to meet the needs of the Allegany and Cattaraugus territories of the Seneca Nation.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy funded by the Health Resources Services Administration Community Connections, Inc. Rural Health Opioid Program
Updated/reviewed December 2021
  • Need: To reduce deaths due to opioid overdose in rural southeast West Virginia.
  • Intervention: The Community Connections, Inc. Rural Health Opioid Program trained and certified first responders, healthcare staff, and laypeople in naloxone administration.
  • Results: From October 2018 to September 2021, the program provided direct education to 638 individuals, trained 821 providers, and distributed 4,023 Narcan kits.
Project VISION
Updated/reviewed December 2021
  • Need: To reduce opioid use and increase quality of life in Rutland, Vermont.
  • Intervention: Project VISION works to reduce opioid use through community engagement.
  • Results: Since 2012, Project VISION has collected and disposed of 550 pounds of unused medications, reduced thefts by over 32%, and had a 50% improvement on a neighborhood quality of life survey.
funded by the Health Resources Services Administration New Horizons Substance Use Recovery Network
Updated/reviewed August 2021
  • Need: In northern Michigan, a need for an integrated approach to deliver medication-assisted treatment for established patients of Federally Qualified Health Centers with opioid use disorder.
  • Intervention: Collaboration between one FQHC across 3 sites, a local waivered prescriber group, and a behavioral health organization created an integrated treatment approach for opioid use disorder.
  • Results: Increased access to medication-assisted treatment and comprehensive substance use disorder services leading to increased retention in treatment and increased engagement in stable recovery from opioid and alcohol use disorders.

Last Updated: 10/4/2022