Costs for Taxpayers Rise in Opioid Epidemic

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If you think the opioid crisis has nothing to do with you, consider that the public already is paying for it and the price tag is growing, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Eleven counties across Ohio have levies on the November ballot to support the social service agencies that have become overwhelmed by the epidemic. County administrators expect more levies on ballots in the next few years. Children services costs are exploding around the state,” said Brad Cole of the County Commissioners’ Association of Ohio. “The avalanche of kids coming into the system [because of the opioid crisis] is out-stripping the funds that counties have.” With the increase in synthetic opioids, which are far deadlier than heroin alone, the crisis and its fallout is growing worse, causing more counties to go to voters for help. When that happens, voters will realize that the costs for services are soaring.

Jails across the state are already paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for withdrawal medications for inmates with opioid addictions. Besides staff overtime, medical expenses in jails – driven by the crisis – are one of the fastest growing costs for counties. “And who pays for that? The taxpayers do, and many don’t realize that we have to spend so much money for it,” said Lt. Marc Churchill of the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department. His county, with a population of about 151,000, is southeast of Columbus. The county pays about $45,000 a year for medication-assisted treatments, such as Vivitrol, a drug that fights a user’s cravings for opioids. In Cuyahoga County, jail officials estimate it costs more than $185,000 a year for similar medications. Many county jails contract with private or public agencies to provide medical and mental health services for inmates.

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