Thursday, September 21, 2023

New Tool Examines Financial Cost of Opioid Crisis in Virginia

According to the opioid cost calculator, the Virginia counties with some of the highest financial burdens are Fairfax County at $251,803,959, Richmond at $216,315,353, and the city of Virginia Beach at $199,838,514. (Jim Gimpel/Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — A new tool is calculating the financial impact of the opioid crisis in Virginia.

The opioid cost calculator developed by the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Commonwealth University, demonstrates the monetary impacts of the opioid epidemic on Virginians in 2020. It tracks different categories such as lost labor, health care, crime, household costs, and state and federal costs. In total, the state’s staring at a price tag of $3.5-billion. Derek Chapman, interim director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health identified the largest costs of the opioid crisis in the state.

“The largest costs, actually, of that $3.5 billion comes from households, actually,” Chapman said. “So, that’s lost workforce productivity, lost labor costs from people unable to work, either, obviously due to passing away, but also unable to work because of opioid addiction. Those lost labor costs were $2.3-billion.”

Chapman said there are some things you can’t put a dollar amount on such as the value of those lives lost to opioid overdoses. However, according to the opioid cost calculator, the labor losses relating to overdoses amounted to $1.9-billion.

Although the opioid cost calculator is still relatively new, the teams that worked on it have hopes for its future. Lauren Yerkes, injury and violence prevention senior epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health, said this as a way to keep the conversation about the opioid crisis alive. She hopes this will inform people about how to work together with policymakers in their communities on how to reduce the opioid cost burden. Yerkes talked about what comes next.

“We are hoping to continue to have as many people look and see the opioid cost calculator,” Yerkes said. “Right now, we recognize that we are in 2022, and 2020 data is on the cost calculator, so our next step is to provide even more recent data moving forward.”

She wants the cost calculator to include the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the opioid crisis. Given that opioid overdoses rose at the beginning of the pandemic, Yerkes added this will push costs up further. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 68,000 people died of opioid overdoses nationwide.

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