Rural Emergency Medical Service Providers Perceptions on the Causes of and Solutions to the Opioid Crisis: A Qualitative Assessment

Heather Blue, Ashley Dahly, Susan Chhen, Julie Lee, Adam Shadiow, Anna G. Van Deelen, Laura C. Palombi

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Abstract

Introduction: The continuing opioid crisis poses unique challenges to remote and often under-resourced rural communities. Emergency medical service (EMS) providers serve a critical role in responding to opioid overdose for individuals living in rural or remote areas who experience opioid overdoses. They are often first at the scene of an overdose and are sometimes the only health care provider in contact with an overdose patient who either did not survive or refused additional care. As such, EMS providers have valuable perspectives to share on the causes and consequences of the opioid crisis in rural communities. Methods: EMS providers attending a statewide EMS conference serving those from greater Minnesota and surrounding states were invited to take a 2-question survey asking them to reflect upon what they believed to be the causes of the opioid crisis and what they saw as the solutions to the opioid crisis. Results were coded and categorized using a Consensual Qualitative Research approach. Results: EMS providers’ perceptions on causes of the opioid crisis were categorized into 5 main domains: overprescribing, ease of access, socioeconomic vulnerability, mental health concerns, and lack of resources and education. Responses focused on solutions to address the opioid crisis were categorized into 5 main domains: need for increased education, enhanced opioid oversight, increased access to treatment programs, alternative therapies for pain management, and addressing socioeconomic vulnerabilities. Conclusion: Along with the recognition that the opioid crisis was at least partially caused by overprescribing, rural EMS providers who participated in this study recognized the critical role of social determinants of health in perpetuating opioid-related harm. Participants in this study reported that education and increased access to treatment facilities and appropriate pain management, along with recognition of the role of social determinants of health in opioid dependency, were necessary steps to address the opioid crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Primary Care & Community Health
Volume12
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 13 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

Keywords

  • emergency medicine services
  • medications
  • opioids
  • qualitative methods
  • rural health

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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