Rural Rx, a Pulitzer Center-supported series on PBS NewsHour about the widening access gap between urban and suburban health care, gives an on-the-ground look at the statistics behind American health disparities. Rural residents in the United States are far more likely to suffer diabetes, heart disease, or depression, and to suffer multiple chronic conditions at once. In addition, people in rural areas lack access to treatment facilities and are nearly 50 percent more likely to die of a drug overdose.
The project, which focuses on West Virginia, Alabama, New York, Colorado, and Texas, has caused a ripple of impact in affected communities.
The video in the report Wider Access to Narcan Helps Rural Communities Fight Overdose Deaths was screened at the New York State Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The story features high school student Julia Wilson, who administered the overdose-reversing medicine Narcan to a man who collapsed at a neighbor's home. She learned how to use Narcan in her health class.
In the video, Wilson shares her experience administering the necessary treatment to a community member. After watching the video of Wilson, an anonymous person provided her with a scholarship so she can pursue a career in nursing at SUNY Upstate Medical University.
Peatrice Ball, a mother in Alabama featured in “The Health Care Challenges Pregnant Women of Color Face in Rural Areas,” described the hardship she faced lacking access to transportation after her newborn baby was admitted to the NICU. On how frequently she saw her baby, she said, “Well, any time that I could get a ride. It was probably like once a week or every two weeks. So it's hard. I used to cry every day when she was in the NICU.”
Since the Rural Rx series, Ball has received financial support from the audience and community members in Alabama. A GoFundMe page was started for Ball’s family, and sources say it helped to get her car running again.
Audiences also reached out to Monika Salvage, the director of Healing Cayuga, a Cayuga County program in New York state that works to prevent overdose and addiction and advocates for access to Narcan. Those who contacted Salvage wanted to collaborate on addressing and lowering overdose deaths in their own communities.
“Those first few minutes (after an overdose) are really important,” Salvage told NewsHour. And it’s even more critical in rural areas, where it’s not just a few minutes until first responders arrive.”
At the time of the interview, Healing Cayuga had distributed more than 3,000 Narcan kits in its community.
Visit the Rural Rx page to see the full series.