Throughout the country, in areas both urban and rural, waiting lists for addiction recovery centers are long—and growing. But for those in rural areas, the potential obstacles that lie between a person struggling with addiction and a treatment program targeted to their needs and budget can seem nearly insurmountable.
Many newly-minted psychologists and psychiatrists find themselves drawn to larger cities where they can earn a better living. In many cases, the higher cost of living in cities can still outweigh the lower wages that are common to rural areas, especially for those who are paying down debt or who want to start a family. This means that there often aren’t enough new providers to take the place of retiring Baby Boomers, leading understaffed clinics to close their doors.
For other providers, the low reimbursement rates from Medicaid and certain private insurance policies can make providing mental health and addiction services in rural areas a cost-prohibitive prospect. Even as drugs like opiates and methamphetamine continue to ravage rural communities, treatment providers are forced to shut down operations as they can no longer attract the talent and pay the overhead expenses required to keep a treatment center in business.
Difficulty Leaving the Rural Life Behind
Some may say that the lack of addiction recovery options in rural areas is no excuse to remain mired in substance abuse—after all, rural residents can just travel to a better-populated area to enter a treatment program there.
But for those who have jobs, kids, and other ties to their rural homestead, the thought of leaving the area for 90 days or more to enter an intensive treatment program can seem overwhelming. Without childcare options in place or a way to pay the bills while taking time off work, many who might otherwise leave the state for treatment can feel as though they’re tied in place by their daily obligations.
Another potential obstacle for those seeking addiction recovery in a rural region is a lack of transportation. For many, the call to action to enter treatment doesn’t come until after a brush with the law, which can often result in the revocation of one’s driver’s license. In other cases, money that would otherwise go toward keeping a vehicle in good working condition is instead spent on drugs or alcohol, leaving one without a way to get around once they’ve committed to sobriety.
Without daily transportation to an outpatient treatment program, those struggling with addiction can wind up dropping out of treatment early—or never beginning treatment in the first place. Both situations can sadly reduce the odds of a successful recovery.