Substance use is a significant public health issue in rural communities. Despite this fact, substance use treatment services are limited in rural areas and residents suffer from significant barriers to care. Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), frequently the hubs of local systems of care, can play an important role in addressing substance use disorders. To develop a coordinated response to community substance use issues, CAHs must identify and prioritize local needs, mobilize local resources and partnerships, build local capacity, and screen for substance use among their patients. These activities provide a foundation upon which CAHs and their community partners can address identified local needs by selecting and implementing initiatives to minimize the onset of substance use and related harms (prevention), treat substance use disorders, and help individuals reclaim their lives (recovery).
This brief makes the case for why CAHs should address substance use, provides a framework to support CAHs in doing so, describes examples of substance use activities undertaken by CAHs to substantiate the framework, and identifies resources that can be used by State Flex Programs to support CAHs in addressing this important public and population health problem.