On November 19, the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) at the White House released an estimate that in 2015, the “economic cost of the opioid crisis was $504 billion, or 2.8% of GDP that year.” This number is dramatically higher than all previous estimates.
The purpose of this estimate is to “provide policymakers with the economic analysis needed to review and assess potential policy options.” These numbers and corresponding analysis can help elected officials identify which policies they should undertake to tackle specific parts of this crisis both on the demand and supply side.
This estimate comes ahead of the anticipated release in December from the CDC that more than 60,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016. This represents a more than 20% increase over the deaths in 2015, meaning that the economic cost for 2016 will likely be far higher than $504 billion.
This number is based on what it costs to provide healthcare to those struggling from an opioid use disorder, the cost to our criminal justice system and lost productivity due to addiction and incarceration.
There is inherent value to every human life, and the cost of failing to act at the policy level both in economic and social terms is abundantly clear.
So, what is Washington doing in response?
We have thanked and applauded Congress for their work in trying to responsibly fund the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and other programs to address the crisis. To that end, the President signed into law funding for CARA in the amount of $179.5 million for FY 17.
President Trump created the President’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which recently released its report with 56 accompanying recommendations on policies to implement. Our President and CEO, Jessica Nickel along with Family Co-Chair Doug Griffin of New Hampshire also testified before the Commission.
And the President has declared this a public health emergency under the Public Health Services Act.
As we continue to follow action at the local, state and federal level, we will be sure to update you on these important items. Our political polarization should not cause political paralysis on an issue that touches millions and takes tens of thousands of lives. Our elected officials have made good progress on this issue, but more must be done, and immediately.