Vanderbilt engineers work with Tennessee DOT to mitigate opioid epidemic

Vanderbilt engineers work with Tennessee DOT to mitigate opioid epidemic

Civil engineers at Vanderbilt University are partnering with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to look into what kinds of transportation investment opportunities exist to help patients get to treatment for opioid use disorder.

Janey Camp, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, is working on a project to help the state find ways to eliminate roadblocks to substance abuse treatment. With the third-highest opioid prescription rate in the nation, Tennessee has seen increasing numbers of overdose deaths over the past 10 years.

Camp said that while public transit exists in the densely populated cities, it was more challenging to find in the state’s rural areas, making up nearly 93 percent of the state.

“One of the most interesting pieces of the study for me will be when we review statewide data of substance abuse cases and different transportation options in those areas to see how travel time and cost, modes of transport and location of treatment facilities intersect,” Camp said.

She and fellow researcher Seth Guikema, professor of industrial and operations engineering at the University of Michigan, will work together to assess currently available transportation and treatment options using data to model scenarios that show how people can travel to treatment facilities with improved transit options. Those models and other assessments will guide the researchers in prioritizing the transit options that contribute the most to mitigating the opioid epidemic.

The research will also weigh how treatment options like telehealth services address some of the issues related to transportation.

“We hope this project will help to make it easier for those in need of treatment to obtain the care they need and complete their treatment programs through innovative approaches to helping people gain access to treatment,” Guikema said.