Opioids Cost Indiana $11M Per Day – What Can Businesses Do?

Opioids Cost Indiana $11M Per Day – What Can Businesses Do?

How many times have you seen news about the opioid crisis in Indiana over the past year? Unless you or your family have been directly impacted by the situation, you may be of the mindset that this is a problem for “other people.” But it isn’t. In fact, opioids are likely costing your company and your industry a ton of money.

According to recent research from Indiana University, overall the “economic damage from the misuse of opioids in Indiana cost $4.3 billion last year and will exceed $4 billion again this year – or about $11 million each day.

“Direct costs are expected to top more than $1 billion in Indiana in 2018. Gross state product (GSP) losses from the accrual of deaths in Indiana will likely exceed $1.25 billion, and another $1.75 billion will be lost due to underemployment attributed to misusers.”

Those GSP losses are like a cut being taken out of every company’s output in the state. Compounding the issue is the fact that many companies are finding it hard to locate and onboard new workers – particularly in industries like transportation and logistics where clean drug screenings are required pre-employment. The result is a spiral of lost productivity and missed opportunity.

“Hoosier employers have been finding it challenging to fill vacant positions. The Hoosier labor force has not been keeping pace with job growth demands – particularly in areas requiring skilled labor and/or higher educational attainment. With labor markets tightening across the Hoosier state, the widely publicized opioid epidemic is now not only a terrible social crisis, but it also has become measurable in terms of lost economic output,” writes Ryan M. Brewer, associate professor of finance with IU’s Division of Business and IUPUC.

It’s Time for Companies to Get Proactive

Most companies probably don’t realize they have a ton of weight in addressing this issue, perhaps even more so than authorities do. Earlier this year, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams called on all employers throughout the country to take an active role in combating the opioid crisis. During his presentation, he stressed that employers have the power to make a tremendous impact.

“There are levers that you, as employers, have through your (healthcare) plan administration to help people understand what an opioid is. You have control over a lot of prescribing,” Adams said.

As an example, Adams described that dental prescriptions are often the first step for many people towards addiction.

“If you tell your employees and their families that you’re not going to pay for more than 10 pills if they go to the dentist, that will have a quicker impact than anything I can do as surgeon general to educate the prescribers in the community,” he said.

Other recommendations for employers include:

  • Implement a three-day limit on opioid prescriptions for initial pain treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the probability of addiction increases on day four.
  • Partner with your health plan provider to help monitor the use of prescription opioids.
  • Ensure your health providers are following CDC guidelines.
  • Provide coverage for alternative pain therapies.
  • Provide coverage for high-quality mental health services and addiction treatment.
  • Share your data with other companies in your community.
  • Direct your HR professionals to maintain contact with county and state health officials to remain informed about what’s going on in your community.
  • Participate in drug take-back events to help get old opioids out of medicine cabinets.
  • Implement an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with your healthcare provider to support employees. Also, educate and promote your EAP among your staff.
  • Help destigmatize opioid addiction. It’s a disease that requires treatment, not a character flaw.
  • Learn to identify substance abuse warning signs.
  • Revisit your workplace drug policies. 81 percent of workplace drug policies lack clarity on prescription drug use at work.
  • Implement “lock ins” for high users. Prevent “doctor-shopping” by requiring covered individuals to use a single pharmacy and a single prescriber for prescription opioids.

More Power Than You Thought

Employers have a lot of different strings they can pull to protect not only their employees from falling into the pitfalls of addiction, but also their communities at large. They’re quite often the bridge between individuals and physicians, insurers, law enforcement, and local authorities. It’s time to get everyone involved in this fight because we have such a massive amount to lose. Revisit your policies today and start getting your company involved in steps toward a solution.


Think Your Company is Exempt from This Crisis?

  • As many as 71% of employershave been affected by prescription drug abuse.
  • Four in 10 opioid addicts are insured under the health plans of large employers.
  • 80% of major U.S. employers are concerned about abuse of prescription opioids and many are taking steps to address the epidemic.

Source: National Safety Council



Sources for the employer recommendations: Society for Human Resource Management, U.S. Surgeon General, Security Health Plan, Corporate Wellness magazine, National Business Group on Health

Category Features, Health