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Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) has significantly impacted rural communities nation-wide. This study adds information to what is currently known about OUD and its effects on small towns through examining how OUD has, and is currently, affecting a rural community (~7,000 population) in central Pennsylvania. The main aim of this study was to better understand how OUD affects this small town through interviewing individuals involved in local public health.


This qualitative study consisted of key stakeholder interviews with ten individuals involved in local government, law enforcement, or healthcare. Questions centered around how OUD affects the local area, how current strategies to combat OUD are viewed, and what, if any, additional action could ameliorate this issue. Interview results were analyzed using thematic analysis.


Ten out of eleven targeted individuals participated in the study. Thematic analysis yielded several themes regarding the community including impacts of OUD, rural challenges in combating OUD, current strategies, and recommended action. Challenges the community faces include low socioeconomic status and limited OUD treatment availability. Stringent opioid prescription guidelines are viewed as effective in curtailing OUD while better rehabilitation and greater collaboration were identified as areas for improvement.


The results support the position that rural communities have been significantly affected by the opioid epidemic. OUD has impacted, and continues to impact, this rural community on individual, interpersonal, and community levels. Future work is needed to better understand and address rural issues in order to alleviate the burden of OUD on this, and other, rural communities.



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