MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia University’s chief economist estimates the opioid epidemic has cost the state economy nearly $1 billion from deaths, lost or underperformed jobs and public resources.
The estimate includes $322 million in productivity lost from fatalities, $316 million in productivity lost from addicted people working below peak levels and $320 million tied up in health care, addiction treatment and police, courts, jails and prisons, according to John Deskins, director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
“It is a steep investment of time, skills, knowledge and resources that could be spent on tackling other problems,” Deskins said.
West Virginia recorded 884 overdose deaths last year, with 756 involving at least one opioid, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
That was higher than the 735 drug fatalities reported the year before, when the federal Centers for Disease Control reported that West Virginia’s death rate led all states at 41.5 per 100,000 people. The comparative CDC state data for 2016 has not been posted yet, but West Virginia’s rate among its relatively small population of less than 1.8 million increased last year to about 49 deaths per 100,000.
State data through mid-October show 558 drug fatalities so far, indicating the rate has begun dropping. Overdose deaths often involve multiple types of drugs, the department said.
West Virginia’s economy has improved from the dip in the energy industry over the past two years, but says progress would be greater without the strain from the drug epidemic, Deskins said. He had no estimate of the black market economy in West Virginia in illicit drugs, he said.
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