Where Opioid Overdose Patients Live Far From Treatment: Geospatial Analysis of Underserved Populations in New York State

Kayley Abell-Hart, Sina Rashidian, Dejun Teng, Richard N. Rosenthal, Fusheng Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Opioid addiction and overdose have a large burden of disease and mortality in New York State (NYS). The medication naloxone can reverse an overdose, and buprenorphine can treat opioid use disorder. Efforts to increase the accessibility of both medications include a naloxone standing order and a waiver program for prescribing buprenorphine outside a licensed drug treatment program. However, only a slim majority of NYS pharmacies are listed as participating in the naloxone standing order, and less than 7% of prescribers in NYS have a buprenorphine waiver. Therefore, there is a significant opportunity to increase access. Objective: Identifying the geographic regions of NYS that are farthest from resources can help target interventions to improve access to naloxone and buprenorphine. To maximize the efficiency of such efforts, we also sought to determine where these underserved regions overlap with the largest numbers of actual patients who have experienced opioid overdose. Methods: We used address data to assess the spatial distribution of naloxone pharmacies and buprenorphine prescribers. Using the home addresses of patients who had an opioid overdose, we identified geographic locations of resource deficits. We report findings at the high spatial granularity of census tracts, with some neighboring census tracts merged to preserve privacy. Results: We identified several hot spots, where many patients live far from the nearest resource of each type. The highest density of patients in areas far from naloxone pharmacies was found in eastern Broome county. For areas far from buprenorphine prescribers, we identified subregions of Oswego county and Wayne county as having a high number of potentially underserved patients. Conclusions: Although NYS is home to thousands of naloxone pharmacies and potential buprenorphine prescribers, access is not uniform. Spatial analysis revealed census tract areas that are far from resources, yet contain the residences of many patients who have experienced opioid overdose. Our findings have implications for public health decision support in NYS. Our methods for privacy can also be applied to other spatial supply-demand problems involving sensitive data.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere32133
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • buprenorphine
  • epidemiology
  • geospatial analysis
  • naloxone
  • opioid overdose
  • opioid pandemic
  • opioid use disorder
  • public health


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