The opioid epidemic’s human costs may be incalculable—and we see that stark reality on the front lines of patient care every day. But what are the costs of the crisis to Massachusetts’ economy? A new report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF), supported by a grant from RIZE Massachusetts, aims to answer that question.
The report, released last week and discussed during a forum hosted by MTF featuring Governor Charlie Baker and members of his administration, examined the impact of opioid abuse on Massachusetts businesses and the state’s economy—including the strain on employers, health care providers, and state and municipal budgets. It concluded that the opioid epidemic is impacting Massachusetts’ economy to the tune of $2.5 billion in lost productivity and presenteeism (working while ill, distracted, or exhausted, resulting in diminished attention and efficiency) alone. Additional costs to businesses come in the form of fatalities, labor market gaps, and health care costs. RIZE Executive Director Julie Burns noted that the broad spectrum of costs uncovered by the report illustrates the far reaches of the problem, which impacts working adults in high numbers.
“For some, it may be a wake-up call,” said Burns. “While it will give the issue a sharper focus for others—including employers who need to understand what’s happening in their own workforce.”
The report also noted that Massachusetts is at the forefront of the epidemic, with the fourth highest rate of opioid-related deaths in the nation—and this trend will not reverse, say the study authors, unless decisive action is taken.
“This report by MTF confirms what we knew to be true, the opioid epidemic is not only taking an enormous toll on families everywhere, it is also costing Massachusetts billions of dollars and severely limiting our economic growth,” said David Torchiana, MD, President and CEO of Partners HealthCare and RIZE Board Chair. “The size of our response must meet the full scope of this crisis and public, private, and nonprofit sectors should continue to come together to change these trends, protect the future economy, and help those in the grips of this terrible disease.”