The opioid crisis cost Pennsylvania nearly $54 billion in 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).
The report was released by the minority staff in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. It was modeled after a national report in November by the Council for Economic Advisers, which pegged the nationwide cost of the opioid epidemic at more than $500 billion in 2015.
The economic impact number in the latest report added up the cost of opioid-related deaths, health care, addiction treatment, criminal justice and lost productivity. The largest impact was from fatalities, which cost the state about $50.5 billion in 2016, Casey said.
“The opioid epidemic isn’t just something affecting families in small towns and communities; it has a lasting impact on our entire commonwealth’s economic growth,” Casey said. “The opioid crisis can force companies to relocate and it puts remarkable strains on local governments.”
From 2012 to 2016, the total economic cost of opioid-related deaths in Pennsylvania has been measured at more than $142 billion, with the total rising each year.
Casey has been pushing a bill known as the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, which calls for investing $45 billion in state government efforts and addiction research.
J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf, said the new report should spur the federal government to provide states more resources for treatment, law enforcement and prevention programs. Pennsylvania recently received $26.5 million in federal grant assistance to support treatment and prevention efforts.
The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania also said the report underscores the seriousness of the crisis. The association is pushing for more funding.
“Pennsylvania’s hospitals are committed to being partners in the opioid crisis and rely on an evidence-based medical model for treating addiction,” HAP said in a statement. “There is growing evidence that people suffering from opioid use disorder may not be able to free themselves completely from addiction and dependency, especially those who have been using high doses of opioids for many years. OUD is now being viewed as a chronic disease and this shift has increased efforts in advancing medication-assisted treatment and warm hand-offs to treatment providers in the community.”
HAP said Pennsylvania has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing this crisis.
But business leaders such as Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, say Wolf did not step up last month when he vetoed a bill aimed at reducing the over-prescription of opioid painkillers to patients in the workers compensation system.
“Many other states have passed similar initiatives, including our neighboring state of Ohio, which saw a reduction of 59 percent in the rate of injured workers becoming addicted to opioids,” Barr said.
The opioid crisis is a major workforce challenge, Barr added. “We have had employers report great difficulty in finding people to fill jobs as many can’t pass a drug test and other qualified individuals don’t ever bother applying knowing they cannot pass.”
Wolf instead took executive action focused on other efforts to curb the potential for misuse and abuse of prescription drugs in the workers’ comp system.