The national opioid epidemic

Age-adjusted drug overdose death rates, by opioid category: United States, 1999–2017

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCHS Data Brief, No. 356, January 2020, Figure 3

The President has declared that the opioid epidemic is a national public health emergency. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that more than 67,300 people in the U.S. died from drug overdose deaths in 2018 and is showing no sign of slowing down.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance misuse produces over $166 billion in healthcare costs and strains hospital capacity. And while drug addiction, according to the CDC and NIDA, is a ‘treatable chronic disease’, and treatment is as effective and sustainable as that for other chronic diseases such as diabetes. Unfortunately, the gap between the need for substance use treatment and receiving treatment in the United States is widening.


Key reasons as to why patients do not get treatment include:

• inadequate accessibility or availability of a variety of treatment modalities
• beliefs that they don’t need treatment or are not ready to stop using
• lack of insurance coverage


In addition, substance use disorder treatment referrals are not a part of the medical care continuum because screening and referrals require a lot of manual work on the part of time-pressed providers.


We believe that improving systems to enhance communication across organizations, patient referrals may be more easily completed, improving access to care and expanding the use of appropriate treatment for patients in need.

Our Work to Leave a Lasting Impact

The National Institutes of Health, through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, awarded OpenBeds® a Small Business Innovation Research grant to leverage their proprietary technology to transform the existing substance use disorder treatment system and contribute to an immediate and lasting impact on the fight against the opioid epidemic. With their support, we are bringing efficiency and transparency to a fragmented system while supporting treatment decisions for evidence-based therapies.

Our Research and Development Partners

We have been fortunate to work with highly respected and innovative thought leaders that are committed to success.

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Gaps in the Substance Use Disorder Treatment Referral Process: Provider Perceptions

The demand for substance use disorder treatment is increasing, fueled by the opioid epidemic and the Affordable Care Act mandate to treat substance use disorders. The increased demand for treatment, however, is not being met by a corresponding increase in access to or availability of treatment.



This whitepaper focuses specifically on the treatment referral process, which has been identified as one of the key barriers to timely and effective treatment. Difficulties in referral to substance use disorder treatment are examined through the lens of providers who make referrals and individuals who work in substance use disorder facilities.

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