Note from the Director
It's a new calendar year and a new administration, but the twin challenges of COVID-19 and the opioid crisis remain. Even as we appear to be making progress with respect to the COVID pandemic, the dimensions of the opioid crisis continue to evolve — after leveling off in 2018, opioid-related deaths increased in 2019, and CDC preliminary data suggest greater increases in 2020. COVID-19 has increased stress on the population and decreased social support, with subsequent declines in mental health and increases in substance use disorders.
Federal and state guidelines and policies, such as those related to telehealth, appear to have allowed many patients to continue to receive treatment at a time when many were practicing social distancing or were under stay-at-home orders, but there are substantial concerns regarding the worsening crisis, complicated by state budget pressures that could affect the availability of treatment.
Researchers around the country are exploring how COVID-19 is affecting efforts to contain the opioid crisis, and how it may hamper efforts to provide treatment — see a selection of their insights below in the section entitled National Perspectives. This newsletter also includes some of our methodological work that may be helpful to researchers examining the effects of state policies and initiatives.
As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions at OPTIC@rand.org.
Stay safe. – Bradley Stein, Director OPTIC