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Helping fund cost of opioid crisis on state government

By Penn State Health

HERSHEY — The societal costs of the opioid epidemic are explored in a special supplement featuring the work of Penn State researchers. Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute helped fund the production of this supplement in The American Journal of Managed Care.

Topics in this supplement focus on the effect of the crisis on state governments, including the costs to employment and labor market productivity, burdens on the child welfare system and special education, the increased costs to the criminal justice system, and the economic burden on state Medicaid programs.

“State and local governments have long shouldered the burden of the opioid epidemic and its costs to individuals and families,” said Dennis Scanlon, distinguished professor of health policy and administration, director of the Center for Health Care and Policy Research at Penn State, and a member of the institute’s Community-Engaged Research Core. “They are at ground zero for the epidemic, where services for those being harmed by opioids are significant and costly, spanning well beyond health care for treatment and prevention.”

Scanlon wrote the introduction to the supplement with Christopher Hollenbeak, a former Penn State professor. The introduction states, “We take an opportunity to raise several important broader questions we believe have not received enough attention but are critically important for learning from the current opioid epidemic and preventing the potential burdens that could be associated with the next epidemic.”

All article authors are either current or former Penn State faculty members or graduate students. Additionally, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine, co-authored one of the papers, further bringing into perspective the opioid crisis at the state level.

Other lead Penn State authors include Max Crowley, assistant professor of human development and family studies and a member of the institute’s Community-Engaged Research Core; Doug Leslie, professor of public health sciences and psychiatry; Paul Morgan, professor of education; Joel Segel, assistant professor of health policy and administration, and Gary Zajac, associate research professor.

Research contributions in the supplement were supported by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under the project “Estimation of Societal Costs to States Due to the Opioid Epidemic,” and as part of larger work supported under a Strategic Planning Implementation award from the Penn State Office of the Provost, “Integrated Data Systems Solutions for Health Equity.” Funding for the production of this supplement was provided by Penn State Social Science Research Institute and by Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

“The supplement fulfills our initial goal of exploring the effects of the opioid crisis on societal costs,” Scanlon said. “Each article in this special issue presents complex cost analyses of the implications of opioid misuse, shedding new light on the opioid epidemic at the state level, and adds to a growing body of literature about the opioid epidemic.”

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