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Report, Webinar Focus on Impact of COVID-19 and the Opioid Epidemic

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SPRINGFIELD, IL – A new report describes the impact of COVID-19 on the existing rural opioid epidemic and identified opportunities to treat opioid addiction and reduce fatalities in rural Illinois. 

“The opioid epidemic continues to hurt rural regions in Illinois and the pandemic has worsened the economic and social factors that lead to opioid misuse,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, Chair, SIU Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy. “We need to invest in new strategies and resources that prevent, treat and build appropriate systems of recovery for those struggling from the opioid epidemic.” 

Southern Illinois University (SIU) Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy, SIU Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, The University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and the SIU Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development recommend the following actions to combat the rural opioid epidemic. 

  • Increase the availability of Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) centers, including virtual treatment and remote counseling options.
  • Engage justice-involved populations to reduce opioid use disorder.
  • Sustain and dramatically expand harm reduction services into rural areas to prevent overdoses and the spread of infectious diseases.

The Rural Health Summit will host a webinar at 12 p.m. on Nov. 16 to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted the rural opioid epidemic. Register for the webinar HERE and see the schedule of upcoming webinars.

The policy recommendations are the result of discussions from rural health stakeholders, community leaders, legislators, physicians and experts from organizations throughout Illinois and build on the Rural Health Summit’s initial report, “Building a Healthier Rural Illinois: Understanding and Addressing the Challenges of COVID-19.” 

The Rural Health Summit is releasing monthly topic-specific policy briefs and hosting corresponding webinars through January 2022 on topics of an aging rural population, mental health, public health systems, nutrition and fitness, children’s growth and development, workforce development, opioids, health and housing and economic development. 

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