NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Researchers from Vanderbilt University are partnering with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to look into how transportation impacts people's ability to get to addiction treatment facilities.
"The transportation is key, if somebody is doing intensive outpatient therapy or group therapy they may need to be at a treatment facility three times a week for multiple hours," Dr. Janey Camp said. "So I think it's a huge hurdle, and I think that's why people fall out of treatment is they cant sustain some of that."
The study is an example of how researchers are getting more creative in the ways they fight the ongoing opioid epidemic.
"I feel like we could offer a unique skill set and perspective," Camp said.
Researchers said innovative ideas are needed now more than ever. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted many people struggling with addiction, and 2020 was the deadliest year for opioid overdoses in Davidson County's history.
"We've observed a 39% increase in overdose death just over the first nine months," said Nick Hayes, who works at Cumberland Heights.
Cumberland Heights is a treatment center that has facilities all over the state and is partnering with Camp on the study. Hayes said he is especially interested in another facet of the study, which looks into how telehealth or distance care can be applied by addiction treatment facilities. He said that option is especially important during the pandemic.
Camp said the goal of the 18-month study is to find solutions that can be implemented by TDOT to make transportation to addiction treatment facilities easier. She said it is too early in the process to know what those solutions are, but examples could include added bus routes or subsidies for ride-hailing apps that bring people to treatment.