The Role of Community Health Centers in Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

August 01, 2018

Community health centers are on the front lines of addressing the opioid epidemic, which affected two million Americans and resulted in 42,249 opioid overdose deaths in 2016.1 Health centers are located in medically underserved rural and urban areas, where the impact of the opioid epidemic has been especially devastating. As providers of comprehensive primary care services, they are increasingly meeting the treatment needs of their patients with substance use disorders (SUD), including those with OUD. The share of health centers providing SUD services has risen. In 2016, 388 (28%) health centers provided these services, which was a substantial increase from 20 percent in 2010.2 Health centers also remove affordability barriers to accessing needed treatment services, particularly for people with OUD who are more likely to have low incomes compared to the general population and are disproportionately covered by Medicaid or are uninsured.3

Based on a survey of health centers conducted in early 2018, this brief presents findings on health center activities related to the prevention and treatment of OUD as well as health centers’ provision of medication for opioid overdose reversal. This brief includes data from these survey questions and discusses the differences between opioid-related activities at health centers in Medicaid expansion states and in non-expansion states.