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RTI Launches New Study to Determine Effects of COVID-19 on Access to Addiction Treatment

With funding from the PCORI, RTI and UCLA will quantify the impacts of COVID-19 on addiction treatment and the use of telemedicine.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute and its partner, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), were awarded funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study if the COVID-19 pandemic is reducing access to addiction treatment among Medicaid patients in California. The study is also examining how telehealth is being used to offset the impact of social distancing requirements on access to treatment. Findings from this research will inform government officials and providers about unmet needs and help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals needing addiction treatment.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses unique challenges for people with substance use disorders, and social distancing measures can further limit access to addiction treatment.

“In 2018, polices to expand access to addiction services contributed to the first decline in drug overdose deaths since 1990,” said Tami Mark, PhD. “We must find strategies to continue that positive momentum in addressing the opioid epidemic even with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.”

To address the need for empirical evidence on telehealth and addiction treatment services use during the COVID-19 pandemic, RTI and UCLA will survey addiction treatment facilities in California; interview state and county officials and staff at addiction treatment referral hotlines, addiction treatment facilities, and emergency medical services; and analyze addiction treatment administrative data.

The study builds on an existing RTI and UCLA PCORI study that is researching ways to improve addiction treatment intake processes.

View the results of the study.

Learn more about our work in telehealth and addiction treatment quality.