Opioid crisis impacts lives, community coffers (copy)

Opioid addiction has a well-known human cost in the number of fatal overdoses. Jackson County had 16 last year.

This drug addiction, however, has another huge cost that’s a little less obvious but further underscores the importance of the work of organizations such as the Jackson County Drug-Free Council and Jackson County United Way. Those organizations and others have been working to provide solutions to substance abuse in the community.

The opioid crisis costs Indiana about $11 million daily — more than $4 billion annually — and cost Jackson County almost $28.1 million last year, according to a study released May 14 by Indiana University.

Ryan Brewer, associate professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, and Kayla Freeman, a doctoral candidate in finance at the IU Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, studied the impact of the opioid crisis on state and local economies, the labor market and health care.

Their findings were released in a special issue of the Indiana Business Review, published by the Indiana Business Research Center.

Brewer and Freeman looked at direct costs (first response, hospitalization, treatment, foster care, court costs), indirect costs (lost gross state product in tight labor markets) and the present value of all lost future productivity of past opioid-related casualties for each year from 2003 through 2017.

The researchers said opioid addiction affects a user’s ability to find employment and be part of the labor force, the result of which is a reduced gross state product.

What the researchers found is troubling:

  • More than 12,300 Indiana residents are estimated to have died from 2003 to 2017 due to opioid overdoses
  • Opioid addiction cost Indiana $43.3 billion during the 15-year study period
  • Opioid addiction cost Bartholomew County $28,125,627 in 2017, and $242.7 million over the study period
  • Indiana’s lost gross state product has increased from $0 in 2003 to $1.72 billion in 2016 — the latter figure almost double the $926 million lost in 2015
  • Potential wages lost due to opioid misuse totaled $752 million for the state in 2016
  • More than $40 million is spent annually statewide for rehabilitation costs
  • The cost of drug arrests and court costs exceeds $13 million annually, and costs of incarceration have reached more than $70 million each year
  • Costs for neonatal abstinence syndrome — when infants experience withdrawal symptoms after losing access to their mother’s drugs after birth — totaled more than $36 million in 2016
  • An estimated 5,243 Hoosier children were in foster care due to parental opioid misuse, as of 2016

The study clearly shows the crisis that is opioid addiction and the negative impact it is having on communities across Indiana, which is a microcosm of the nationwide problem.

Communities have to rally together resources to tackle the problem or it will get worse. Thankfully, we have lots of organizations working to address the issue here.

The solutions Jackson and other counties seek require a lot of work, time and money, but are worth it. The cost of doing nothing is unimaginable.