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Roberts Explores Telemedicine to Fight Opioids in Rural Areas
Missouri Ag Connection - 04/12/2018

At a hearing of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts explored the use of telemedicine as a way to improve access to addiction treatment for rural patients.

"As co-chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, I am particularly concerned with the growing rise of opioid and substance abuse in rural areas. Patients suffering from substance use disorders in rural parts of the country face many challenges in accessing the clinical services they need," Roberts said.

"I have heard from many Kansans who have to travel long distances, sometimes across state lines, in order to access substance abuse treatments. For example, the nearest methadone clinic for Southeast Kansas is in Joplin, Missouri."

Community mental health and addiction treatment facilities in rural areas often do not house a full-time clinician who can prescribe controlled substances, such as methadone and Suboxone, for the treatment of substance use disorders. Many rural patients need to travel long distances, sometimes across state lines, to access the needed treatments. The distance can also be a burden on providers, who may spend hours traveling to treat one rural patient.

Roberts intends to introduce legislation to allow telemedicine to address this burden.

Roberts is chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and is Chairman of the Rural Health Caucus.

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