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New Tool Maps Substance-Use Recovery Hotspots


Friday, September 30, 2022   

A new tool is locating areas in the U.S. in need of robust recovery systems for people dealing with substance abuse.

The Recovery Ecosystem Index Mapping Tool is an online data set of recovery ecosystems across the country. According to the tool, three counties in New Hampshire -- Bellknap, Hillsborough and Stafford -- have overdose mortality rates of more than 60%.

Several indicators ranging from age, disability access and income to availability of treatment and transportation are used to determine where people are seeing genuine recovery from substance abuse.

Michael Meit, co-director of the East Tennessee State University Center for Rural Health Research, said there have been some interesting findings with the tool thus far.

"What we noticed is the areas that have the greatest challenge with substance-use disorder, tend to have the strongest recovery ecosystems," Meit reported. "And that kind of makes sense because those are the areas that have needed to respond. They have a community where there's need, and the communities come together to respond."

Areas less affected by substance abuse have poorer recovery ecosystems, he explained. Conversely, those with bigger addiction problems have stronger recovery systems. But he stressed they are not trapped in a cycle of abuse and recovery. Rather, people remain successful during their recovery.

Meit found the biggest challenge in developing this tool has been the availability of certain data. Although the data the tool utilizes is accurate, he pointed out, some information is unavailable on a national level. He hopes to find more data about the effects of COVID on recovery programs.

"During the pandemic, people's treatment programs were disrupted, there was greater isolation, there was job loss," Meit outlined. "A lot of things that go hand-in-hand with substance-use disorder, but also mental-health issues and other types of health crises."

Meit said the goal of the new online tool is to provide communities with the knowledge they need to provide more nurturing environments for people in recovery.

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