Opioid abuse’s economic impact further shows alliance’s importance

The impact of the growing opioid epidemic in the Columbus area has been well documented in recent months through a variety of public meetings. Experts have explained the damage to individuals’ lives and their families, and the strain on local law enforcement and judicial resources.

Some telling statistics illustrate the problem:

  • An estimated 1,000 county residents suffer from opioid addiction
  • An average of 70 overdoses per month have reported this year
  • 17 of the 23 overdose deaths reported this year were opioid-based
  • An increasing number of babies are being born locally with neonatal abstinence syndrome, meaning they were exposed to drugs in the womb and suffer withdrawal symptoms after birth

The concern became so great that a local group, the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress (ASAP) in Bartholomew County, was formed to specifically tackle the issue and come up with solutions, presenting an in-depth outline to tackle the problem during an Oct. 24 community forum that attracted 250 people.

The first phase of initiatives, to get underway by the end of 2018, includes opening of at least one new residential treatment center; launching a program that provides nurse coaches to expectant new mothers, including possible addicts; establishing a family recovery court dealing exclusively in cases involving parental rights that arise out of substance abuse; and finalizing updates to health and science curriculum within the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. to address the opioid crisis.

Depth of the opioid problem was further clarified Nov. 9 when IUPUC associate professor of finance Ryan Brewer discussed the impact on the Columbus economy.

He noted that opioid abuse stresses an already tight labor market. With a September local unemployment rate of 2.7 percent, just about everyone who is able to work is working.

But the roughly 1,000 opioid abusers who either are not working or are underproductive at work are negatively affecting the city’s ability to produce goods and services.

Brewer estimated the loss to GDP growth in Columbus is $17.5 million. While that’s a fraction of the city’s $5 billion economy, opioid abuse piled on top of a shortage of workers to fill jobs is an added weight slowing the local economy.

What Brewer shared further underscores the need and importance of the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County’s work, and local initiatives┬áto address the local opioid epidemic.

Opioid abuse reaches far in a community. That’s why the community effort to fight it is critical.