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New Report Details Opioid Epidemic’s “severe” Economic Impact

November 14, 2018

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Buy Colin A. Young

State House News Service

BOSTON -- The opioid epidemic that has ravaged communities and killed thousands has also had a “severe” impact on Massachusetts businesses, costing $2.5 billion a year in absenteeism and lost productivity, a new report has found.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report said that on top of the $2.5 billion in lost productivity each year, businesses have also assumed the excess health care costs related to opioid usage -- estimated to exceed $2 billion. MTF said that in an already tight labor market in the Bay State, the opioid epidemic has made it even harder to find workers to fill jobs as businesses try to expand.

“The tens of thousands more prime age people lost to the workforce due to the opioid crisis is yet another stiff headwind businesses must overcome in order to expand and prosper,” the group wrote in its report.

The foundation said it conducted its research on how the opioid crisis has affected businesses, in part, to encourage business leaders to become more involved in combating the problem.

Through the first six months of 2018, there were 657 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts and the Department of Public Health estimates that an additional 322 to 396 deaths will be confirmed as opioid-related overdose deaths. Fresh data is due later this month from DPH. Overall opioid deaths fell from 2,154 in 2016 to 2,071 in 2017 -- a 4 percent decrease -- but the DPH data release in August logged a new high in the prevalence of fentanyl. In the first quarter of 2018, fentanyl was found in 89 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths where a toxicology screen occurred, up from about 40 percent in 2014.

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