A few steps, including the advancing of telemedicine, could help save countless lives currently being lost to the opioid epidemic.
First, the administration is still considering declaring a national emergency. That would provide access to more funds, or eliminate proposed budget cuts to existing addiction treatment programs. These monies could be used to train providers interested in delivering telemedicine or used to increase the number of staff able to provide comprehensive services.
Second, we need to investigate the effectiveness of existing telemedicine approaches within rural communities, and continue developing new technology-assisted opioid treatments for rural and urban communities.
Universities, especially those located within surrounding rural communities, should develop dedicated rural health initiatives. My colleagues and I are currently conducting a study to better understand rural patients' views on treatment access. We will also ask providers about their likelihood to use new treatments – like telemedicine or treatments delivered through mobile or internet devices – in their practice.
Last, it's important to provide publicly funded treatment and comprehensive services to both rural and urban communities. Practically speaking, many people in need of opioid treatment are able to access treatment only using public health insurance programs like the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and block grant programs.
Until all communities, rural or otherwise, have better access to comprehensive opioid treatment, we will continue to lose loved ones at alarming and unacceptable rates.
More from The Conversation:
The mystery of a 1918 veteran and the flu pandemic
The emotional challenges of student veterans on campus
The long, strange history of dieting fads
Commentary by Jamey Lister, assistant professor of social work at Wayne State University. He is also a contributor at The Conversation, an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community.
For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow