A strong correlation exists between opioid prescriptions per capita and a healthy labor market, according to several state agencies.
The Economic Report to the Governor of the State of Tennessee, completed by the University of Tennessee Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research in 2018, outlined the effect drug addiction is having on the labor market of the state. While a new 2019 economic outlook report has been published, the 2018 study focused more closely on the effects the opioid crisis has had on the economy.
Studies show that a 10 percent reduction in per capita opioid prescriptions would lead to an additional $825 million in income for Tennesseans from enhanced labor market participation.
The Coffee County Drug Court Foundation has battled the issue for years, offering resources to locals fighting addiction.
According to Mike Lewis, executive director of the drug court foundation, plenty of job opportunities exist; however, those who are addicted fail to pass drug tests and keep their jobs.
“The employment agencies here work really hard to get people employed,” Lewis said. “A lot of times, people who are in active addiction won’t show up for job interviews or they won’t stay on the job because they are either using drugs, can’t pass a drug screen or they are busy seeking drugs.
“Our treatment programs work to help people by holding them accountable. We follow up to make sure people keep appointments with the employment agencies and that they show up to job interviews,” Lewis continued. “We even check with employers to make sure our clients are at work, acting responsibly and passing the drug test here.”
The local programs have seen success, said Lewis.
“We have a high rate of success of people who not only get jobs but are able to retain them for months and even years at a time, where before they wouldn’t keep a job for more than a few weeks,” Lewis said. “They are excited to be hired full time and earn benefits.”
Nationwide, the number of opioid prescriptions written has grown dramatically, from 76 million in 1991 to 245 million in 2014, according to the 2018 UT report.
Tennessee has had extensive experience in dealing with the opioid crisis, with the state ranking second in the nation in 2012 for opioid prescriptions dispensed per capita.
In 2016, a significant share of individuals in Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services treatment facilities had opioid-related abuse problems.
Opioid-related hospitalization costs have been estimated at $442.6 million per year, and TennCare costs at $76.9 million annually.
There is clear evidence of a strong correlation between opioid prescriptions per capita and measures of labor market health.
Elena Cawley may be reached via email at email@example.com