Opioid abuse represents a significant and growing public health issue for both the nation and Kentucky. In 2016, opioids contributed to more than 62,000 deaths nationally and 1,406 deaths in Kentucky. National studies have placed the societal costs of opioid abuse at $55.7 billion in 2007 and $78.5 billion in 2013 (Birbaum et al. (2011) and Florence et al. (2016)). These costs included increased health care expenditures, higher criminal justice costs, and lost earnings due to reduced employment and premature deaths. The While House Council of Economic Advisors (2017) estimated the societal costs of opioid abuse to be much higher when the value of lives lost are included. They estimated the cost of opioid abuse to be $504 billion in 2015.
Growth in opioid abuse creates fiscal pressures for state and local agencies by increasing the needs for foster care, health care, criminal justice programs, and many other types of public services. Because opioid abuse can also reduce employment and earnings, it adds to these fiscal pressures by reducing tax collections.