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Examining trends in substance use disorder capacity and service delivery by Health Resources and Services Administration-funded health centers: A time series regression analysis

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The opioid epidemic and subsequent mortality is a national concern in the U.S. The burden of this problem is disproportionately high among low-income and uninsured populations who are more likely to experience unmet need for substance use services. We assessed the impact of two Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) substance use disorder (SUD) service capacity grants on SUD staffing and service use in HRSA -funded health centers (HCs).

Methods and findings

We conducted cross-sectional analyses of the Uniform Data System (UDS) from 2010 to 2017 to assess HC (n = 1,341) trends in capacity measured by supply of SUD and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) providers, utilization of SUD and MAT services, and panel size and visit ratio measured by the number of patients seen and visits delivered by SUD and MAT providers. We merged mortality and national survey data to incorporate SUD mortality and SUD treatment services availability, respectively. From 2010 to 2015, 20% of HC organizations had any SUD staff, had an average of one full-time equivalent SUD employee, and did not report an increase in SUD patients or SUD services. SUD capacity grew significantly in 2016 (43%) and 2017 (22%). MAT capacity growth was measured only in 2016 and 2017 and grew by 29% between those years. Receipt of both supplementary grants increased the probability of any SUD capacity by 35% (95% CI: 26%, 44%) and service use, but decreased the probability of SUD visit ratio by 680 visits (95% CI: -1,013, -347), compared to not receiving grants.


The significant growth in HC specialized SUD capacity is likely due to supplemental SUD-specific HRSA grants and may vary by structure of grants. Expanding SUD capacity in HCs is an important step in increasing SUD access for low income and uninsured populations broadly and for patients of these organizations.

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