Price tag of Ohio’s opioid epidemic: Up to $8.8 billion a year

A new study of the state’s opioid epidemic by Ohio State University researchers shows a staggering economic toll of $6.6 billion to $8.8 billion a year — about the same amount the state spends annually on K-12 education.

And though treatment needs have skyrocketed, the state has not responded: It has the capacity to treat only 20 percent to 40 percent of the 92,000 to 170,000 Ohioans abusing or addicted to opioids. The shortage is especially acute in rural areas hit hardest by the drug crisis.

The 22-page report released on Wednesday by researchers with the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy at Ohio State found the state has done a good job of cracking down on opioid prescriptions. But it pointed out that many addicts have switched to street drugs such as heroin, making expanded access to treatment the more pressing need.

The report comes virtually on the eve of President Donald Trump’s expected declaration of a national opioid emergency.

Ohio is among the nation’s leaders in opioid-related overdose deaths, with a record 4,050 fatalities in 2016, a 33 percent increase from 2015.

Read more here.

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