Opioid use disorder (OUD) in pregnancy disproportionately impacts rural and American Indian (AI) communities. With limited data available about access to care for these populations, this study’s objective was to assess clinic knowledge and new patient access for OUD treatment in three rural U.S. counties.
The research team used unannounced standardized patients (USPs) to request new patient appointments by phone for white and AI pregnant individuals with OUD at primary care and OB/GYN clinics that provide prenatal care in three rural Utah counties. We assessed a) clinic familiarity with buprenorphine for OUD; b) appointment availability for buprenorphine treatment; c) appointment wait times; d) referral provision when care was unavailable; and e) availability of OUD care at referral locations. We compared outcomes for AI and white USP profiles using descriptive statistics.
The USPs made 34 calls to 17 clinics, including 4 with publicly listed buprenorphine prescribers on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. Among clinical staff answering calls, 16 (47%) were unfamiliar with buprenorphine. OUD treatment was offered when requested in 6 calls (17.6%), with a median appointment wait time of 2.5 days (IQR 1-5). Among clinics with a listed buprenorphine prescriber, 2 of 4 (50%) offered OUD treatment. Most clinics (n = 24/28, 85.7%) not offering OUD treatment provided a referral; however, a buprenorphine provider was unavailable/unreachable 67% of the time. The study observed no differences in appointment availability between AI and white individuals.
Rural-dwelling AI and white pregnant individuals with OUD experience significant barriers to accessing care. Improving OUD knowledge and referral practices among rural clinics may increase access to care for this high-risk population.

Published by Elsevier Inc.