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‘We Can’t Afford to Not Take Action’: Leaders Discuss Economic Impact of Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis is costing Massachusetts $2.5 billion a year in lost productivity from employees, according to a report

Rather than just put a face to the opioid epidemic, medical researchers have put a number on its cost in Massachusetts.

According to a report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, employers have lost likely more than $2.5 billion annually due to employees who skip work or underperform because of their addiction. In addition, treating those people through opioid programs and services across systems in Massachusetts is estimated to be at least $5.5 billion.

“We can’t afford not to take action,” said Michael Botticelli, who helped work on the report.

As the the executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at Boston Medical Center, Botticelli has noticed that more employers are seeking help to better understand opioid addiction, something that would not have happened years ago without so much attention from the state.

“Many employers are really coming to understand the burden of this epidemic,” Botticelli explained. “I think this has really been silent for a very long time often because people are afraid to talk about it.”

During a forum with state leaders and other advocates on Friday, Governor Charlie Baker acknowledged the problem will take a long time to solve in the stare, however, he urged employers to take charge on the issue.

“If you talk to a mom or a dad or a brother or sister who is dealing with this and they start to give you the detail of how much of their life has been invested, skip the money part, but how much of their life and their time and their focus has been invested in trying to help their friend their family member get better. It’s extraordinary,” said the governor.

Massachusetts had the fourth highest rate of opioid-related deaths in the nation at 30.2 per 100,000 of population in 2016.

As the state works with the medical community to best address the issue, Botticelli said everyone needs to step up to help.

“This is an all hands on deck issue. We know that everybody has a role to play so whether you are a corporate CEL, whether you’re a faith minister, whether you’re a healthcare delivery system,” Botticelli said, “we all have a role to play.”

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