Opioids cost Ohio $8.8 billion

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Opioids cost Ohio $8.8 billion

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An estimated 2,500 people attended the 4th Annual Families of Addicts Rally 4 Recovery in August at Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ANDY GRIMM

As President Trump prepares to declare the opioids crisis a public health emergency, a new report outlines just how expensive that crisis is — in more ways than one.

Opioid addiction, abuse and overdose deaths cost Ohio from $6.6 billion to $8.8 billion, according to a new report from the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy at Ohio State University.

“To put this in perspective, Ohio spent $8.2 billion of general revenue funds and lottery profits money on K-12 public education in 2015,” the report says. “Thus, the opioid crisis was likely as costly as the state’s spending on K-12 education.”

The report estimates that between 92,000 and 170,000 Ohioans were abusing or dependent on opioids in 2015.

President Trump is expected today to direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare the nation’s obsession with opioids a nationwide public health emergency under the Public Health Service Act.

The president is expected to deliver a speech on the topic Thursday.

The Swank report sounds an alarm about the state’s capacity to actually deal with the problem.

“We estimate that in the best-case scenario, Ohio likely has the capacity to treat 20 percent to 40 percent of the population abusing or dependent on opioids,” the report says.

The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, where too many have little access to medication-assisted treatment.

And the report turns a spotlight to the Dayton area and beyond, saying: “This is a particularly critical issue in the rural areas of Southwest Ohio, where opioid abuse rates are high but local access to treatment is limited.”

Mark Rembert, one of the report’s authors, said researchers found that there are short-term and longer-term issues that need to be addressed.

Medicaid expansion lays a good foundation for providing treatment for many, he said. 

There’s a lot of variation across Ohio in access to physicians who are able to treat addiction. Patients can’t simply walk into a family doctor’s office and get effective treatment, he noted. 

Treatment in Ohio is mostly available in bigger cities. There are 17 counties in Ohio where there isn’t a single provider who can treat opioid addiction, Rembert said.

Vermont has taken an approach worth modeling, he believes. That state “took a really focused approach” to offering treatment and now has excess capacity, he said. 

Before opioids, drug addiction was mostly an urban phenomenon, he said. But this problem is notable for spreading to rural areas, too. 

Said Rembert: “Montgomery County has a high overdose rate, a very high overdose rate in the state, but many rural counties do (too).”

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