As I type this, I’m sitting within about five miles of 15 different drug addiction recovery facilities. From my desk, it’s a 17-minute walk to someplace I can get a Hepatitis A vaccine, even if I don’t have health insurance.

I’m in downtown Louisville. But the opioid and Hep A epidemics look very different outside of big cities.

In small towns, where everyone knows everyone else, the stigma attached to seeking treatment for substance use disorders can be even more intense. Plenty of evidence says needle exchange programs help prevent the spread of disease, but they’re politically unpopular.

Mary Meehan and Aaron Payne cover health issues for the Ohio Valley ReSource.

“To talk to people in active addiction is difficult because they don’t want to be associated with the opioid epidemic,” Aaron said. “Even people in recovery sometimes are hesitant to talk about their experience. They’re still afraid of the stigma, so it can be difficult to find people to talk to that have lived through this disease.”

They join us on today’s show to talk about their experiences covering the opioid epidemic and related issues in rural communities.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects.