Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on a rural opioid support services program.

Jayme Walters, Aubrey Jones, Aaron Brown, Dorothy Wallis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


During 2020, Kentucky saw the third highest increase in overdose deaths in the U.S. Employment issues, inadequate housing, transportation problems, and childcare needs present barriers to accessing treatment in rural areas. These barriers and others (e.g., technology) arose during the pandemic negatively affecting individuals in recovery and service providers as they adjusted services to provide primarily telehealth and remote services. This study examines the impact of COVID-19 in its early stages on an opioid use disorder (OUD) support services program in a nonprofit located in rural eastern Kentucky, part of the central Appalachia region. A qualitative design was applied, employing semi-structured interviews in early fall 2020. Participants were associated with one OUD support services program, including service recipients, program coordinators, and business vendors. Guided by the Social Determinants of Health framework, two-cycle coding–descriptive coding and pattern coding–was utilized. Codes were sorted into three patterns: changes to daily life; financial impacts; and service access and provision. Overall, early stages of COVID-19 brought increased stress for individuals in recovery, as they were taking on more responsibility and navigating a changing environment. Coordinators were under pressure to provide services in a safe, timely manner. Vendors vocalized their struggles and successes related to finances. These findings can help organizations make realistic adjustments and policymakers set reasonable expectations and consider additional financial support.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)11164-11176
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2022


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