Community-based naloxone coverage equity for the prevention of opioid overdose fatalities in racial/ethnic minority communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Addiction. 2021 Nov 25. doi: 10.1111/add.15759. Online ahead of print.


Background and aims: Opioid-related overdose death rates continue to rise in the United States, especially in racial/ethnic minority communities. Our objective was to determine if US municipalities with high percentages of non-white residents have equitable access to the overdose antidote naloxone distributed by community-based organizations.

Methods: We used community-based naloxone data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Rhode Island non-pharmacy naloxone distribution program for 2016-18. We obtained publicly available opioid-related overdose death data from Massachusetts and the Office of the State Medical Examiners in Rhode Island. We defined the naloxone coverage ratio as the number of community-based naloxone kits received by a resident in a municipality divided by the number of opioid-related overdose deaths among residents, updated annually. We used a Poisson regression with generalized estimating equations to analyze the relationship between the municipal racial/ethnic composition and naloxone coverage ratio. To account for the potential non-linear relationship between naloxone coverage ratio and race/ethnicity we created B-splines for the percentage of non-white residents; and for a secondary analysis examining the percentage of African American/black and Hispanic residents. The models were adjusted for the percentage of residents in poverty, urbanicity, state and population size.

Results: Between 2016 and 2018, the annual naloxone coverage ratios range was 0-135. There was no difference in naloxone coverage ratios among municipalities with varying percentages of non-white residents in our multivariable analysis. In the secondary analysis, municipalities with higher percentages of African American/black residents had higher naloxone coverage ratios, independent of other factors. Naloxone coverage did not differ by percentage of Hispanic residents.

Conclusions: There appear to be no municipal-level racial/ethnic inequities in naloxone distribution in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, USA.

Keywords: accessibility; naloxone; opioids, overdose deaths; racial disparity, spatial analysis.