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Substance abuse report claims addiction has NH's economy on the nod

State House Bureau

May 08. 2017 3:39PM
Brian Gottlob, principal of PolEcon Research in Dover. 

CONCORD – As personnel manager at Turbocam in Barrington, Peter Hansen has seen the effects of addiction first-hand as he tries to help employees who work for the industrial component manufacturer.

“We all know New Hampshire has workforce challenges, but when you add the additional burden that substance abuse brings to New Hampshire’s workforce, in terms of impaired productivity and absenteeism, it makes our workforce picture even more dire,” he said at a press conference Monday in the Legislative Office Building.

Hansen was among the speakers on hand to talk about the latest research on the state’s addiction crisis, its cost to the state’s economy and the impact of programs like expanded Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

The analysis was commissioned by the New Futures recovery and advocacy organization based in Concord and conducted by Dover-based economist Brian Gottlob of PolEcon Research.

Gottlob updated a 2014 report he did for New Futures, titled “The Corrosive Effects of Alcohol and Drug Misuse on NH’s Workforce and Economy.”

“This (new) report reiterates the fact that the greatest cost of substance misuse in New Hampshire is in the form of lost productivity of individuals in the state who are dependent on or who abuse alcohol or drugs,” according to Gottlob.

Productivity losses, including reduced labor force participation and reduced earnings by alcohol and drug dependent workers, were estimated by the group at $1.56 billion in 2014.

In the same year, health care costs attributed to substance abuse were $337 million, while criminal justice costs were estimated at $306 million, making lost productivity by far the most significant economic impact of the crisis.

Addiction is not just a matter that affects people with substance abuse disorders and their immediate circle of family, friends and co-workers; the New Hampshire economy is at risk in a way that should concern everyone, according to the report.

The report can be viewed below:

While Gottlob’s latest research documents the growing severity of the problem, it also suggests that the expansion of Medicaid to another 50,000 Granite State residents has had a positive effect in addressing the crisis, along with the advent of the Affordable Care Act, which requires drug and alcohol addiction treatment as a health insurance benefit.

“This report brings to light the critical implications substance abuse has to New Hampshire’s economy, but also outlines important public policies that have the potential to change the landscape,” said Hansen.

The report will no doubt be used to support lobbying efforts by organizations like New Futures as the governor and Legislature decide on funding levels for alcohol and drug recovery services and debate the future of expanded Medicaid.

“We have shared the report with the governor’s office, and we look forward to talking to the governor about it,” said Linda Saunders Paquette, president and CEO of New Futures. “This is important information for policymakers, particularly as it influences our workforce and our workforce development.”

Paquette said the expansion of Medicaid coverage and inclusion of substance abuse counseling as a required benefit have been “the cornerstone of our efforts to combat the addiction crisis in New Hampshire.”

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