In this policy brief, the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy finds the opioid epidemic to be not only a health crisis, but an economic one as well.
“In 2015, opioid overdoses resulted in $3.8 billion in lost lifetime productivity in Ohio. In total, the cost of opioid abuse and dependency ranged from $6.6 billion to $8.8 billion.”
This puts the total estimated costs of the epidemic close to the state’s $8.2 billion K-12 education budget.
Two policy suggestions are provided in the brief for dealing with the opioid crisis, near- and long-term.
First, Swank recommends creating policy that expands access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
“When properly administered, medication-assisted treatments have been shown to be the most effective method of treating opioid addiction and reducing overdose deaths by allowing the patient to regain a normal state of mind, reduce withdrawal symptoms, and manage opioid cravings.”
Ohio had capacity to treat only 40-percent of people with opioid dependency in 2012. “Since then, overdoses have increased markedly, but treatment facilities have not,” Swank writes. “Increasing access and utilization of medication-assisted treatment is critical for Ohio to address the opioid crisis.”
To address the socioeconomic factors that create addiction, their second suggestion is policy aimed at improving the labor and education market for residents in deindustrialized communities.
Populations with only a high school degree are 14 times more likely than college graduates to develop an addiction to opioids, and in the counties with the most jobs lost to automation and outsourcing, Swank found that its “unemployment rate in 2010 is positively correlated with overdose deaths in 2015.”
I am recommending this brief to Think Tank members to help us better understand our direction as we conduct our campaign for equal access to affordable treatment. In addition to expanding access of services like MAT and Medicare, we will need to help our brothers and sisters escape the conditions that played a role in the development of their addictions, namely, by addressing the Poverty Problem.
You can read the entire policy brief online here.