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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown: Public Assistance not Significantly Associated with Overdose at Beginning of Month

Researchers at the Brown University School of Public Health have published a study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, which investigates the check effect – that is whether or not receiving public assistance causes an increase in overdoses at the beginning of the month, when checks are typically distributed. The study found that there was no significant association between areas that had high amounts of overdose in the beginning of the month and the proportion of people in a neighborhood receiving public assistance.

Led by Mr. William Goedel, a second-year doctoral student at the School of Public Health, the researchers assessed the spatiotemporal patterning of overdose deaths by the time of month in which they occurred, something previous studies looking at the issue have not done. The study used overdose death data from the Rhode Island State Medical Examiner’s office from January 2014 to December 2016, in order to assess when and where the death occurred. Receipt of public assistance was assessed by using data from the American Community Survey, administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. Census tracts that had significant amount of overdoses in the beginning of the month compared to surrounding areas were grouped into clusters.

They found that while the first seven days of the month had a 7 percent increase in overdoses compared to the last seven days of the month; the proportion of people receiving public assistance had no significant association with these clusters.  The authors hypothesize that other factors such as the burden of housing costs – rent and mortgages are due at the beginning of the month – may contribute to higher levels of stress and substance use, potentially contributing to higher overdose rates.