The Corrosive Effects of Alcohol and Drug Misuse on NH's Workforce and Economy

by New Futures

A dramatic rise in the number of drug-related deaths in New Hampshire has focused the state’s attention on the dangerous rise in opiate and opioid abuse occurring. It has also prompted public policy efforts to address the problem. Headline news reports of heroin, fentanyl, and other drug-related deaths are startling and disturbing, but as horrific as the number of drug-related deaths are, they still represent only a fraction of the personal, economic, and social costs of drug and alcohol misuse in New Hampshire.

Along with the focus on the rise of opioid use, there has also been an increased awareness of the constraints that slow labor force growth is placing on New Hampshire’s economy; highlighting the need to maximize labor force participation and productivity.

This is why New Futures, a health and wellness advocacy organization in New Hampshire, recently released the updated economic report titled pie_chart.png“Substance Misuse in New Hampshire: An Update on Costs to the State’s Economy and Initial Impacts of Public Policies to Reduce Them“ which focuses on the costs of substance misuse in the Granite State. This report uses additional data and improved methodologies to estimate the costs attributable to substance misuse in four broad areas: the productivity of individuals and businesses, criminal justice, health care, and other costs. The cost to New Hampshire of substance abuse has increased from $1.84 billion in 2014 to $2.36 billion (not including $604.6 million in costs related to premature deaths) in 2015. This is an amount equal to over $21,000 annually for every individual in the state who is dependent upon or abuses alcohol or drugs. The annual cost of drug and alcohol misuse in New Hampshire is equal to over three percent (3.32%) of the state’s annual gross state product.

Nationally, and in New Hampshire, the longer-term prospects for economic growth are being challenged by two primary forces, slow growth in the labor force and declining growth in productivity. By reducing the number of individuals in the labor force and by decreasing the skills and productivity of individuals who are in the labor force, substance misuse in New Hampshire exacerbates key demographic and human resource issues that contribute to slower economic growth in the state. This report reiterates the fact that the greatest cost of substance misuse in New Hampshire is in the form of the lost productivity of individuals in the state who are dependent on or who abuse alcohol or drugs.

alcdrugs.pngIn 2016, policymakers in the State of New Hampshire took a number of important steps to confront the increasing problem of substance misuse in the state. As a result of state and national policies enacted in recent years, there are now greater opportunities for New Hampshire residents to receive needed treatment and recovery supports. The report documents the impact the Affordable Care Act requirements for insurance coverage of substance use disorder and mental health treatment services. This report takes a look at the expansion of Medicaid, and what affect that has had on substance misuse treatment rates in New Hampshire. Finally, the report examines how treatment capacity has expanded in response to ACA requirements for the inclusion substance use disorder treatment in health insurance coverage and the expansion of Medicaid in the state.  

Although the total cost of substance misuse in New Hampshire’s economy continues to rise there are many ways businesses can step in to actively help work toward solutions. The first is creating and implementing a recovery friendly workplace model for your company or small business. This can be as easy as having an open door policy with your employees or even simply asking them about how their home life is going. Another way a business can have a recovery friendly workplace is by meeting one on one with employees suspected of having a substance use disorder or mental health crisis to lay out options for them and connect them with resources. We also always urge employers to make reasonable accommodations to assist someone who is fresh out of treatment to maintain sobriety to ensure that they are able to leave early or come in late when appropriate in order to attend any group meetings. It is also important that business leaders and managers recognize that individuals who may not have a substance use disorder themselves may have to access Paid Family and Medical Leave time in order to care for a family member who may have entered or just left treatment. A quick step employers can take today is to make sure employees are thorough educated on the behavioral health services offered through their medical plan. Lastly, business leaders can also call their legislators for continued support of programs that have been proven effective such as Medicaid Expansion, Paid Family and Medical Leave and local resources such as Safe Stations program.

New Futures plans to continue to spread awareness and evidence-based information on the many different ways substance misuse can impact a community, a state’s economy and workforce development.

New Futures welcomes the chance to connect with you. You can reach the team at their office, (603) 225-9540 or via email at info@new-futures.org. They also love when folks drop by. 10 Ferry St. Suite 307 Concord NH 03301.

http://www.new-futures.org/publicationsFind this report on the New Futures website