Recently, we have seen the significant impact of the opioid epidemic all over the United States.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott issued a statewide public health emergency last year. This crisis is more than a social problem.
Florida’s small business community is gravely impacted by this widespread issue for many reasons. Our business owners, their employees and families and the very economic structure of our state has been infiltrated by the opioid crisis.
For example, work-related injuries sometimes provide pain medications that lead to addiction. This is a direct problem that impacts the finances of business owners and consumers – not to mention all the families impacted by addiction and overdoses.
During a trip to Washington, D.C. last month, I learned that two-thirds of Americans who reported misusing prescription medication were on their company’s payroll at the time. American employers lose $80 billion annually in productivity, absenteeism, accidents and healthcare costs due to drug addiction and abuse.
As Congress appropriates funds to address this very important issue, we urge public support of helpful treatment programs and life-saving products that directly address the opioid crisis. This includes providing naloxone, the overdose reversing drug, to law enforcement officers and as a co-prescription to Medicaid and Medicare patients. Expanding access to naloxone for law enforcement will save lives and protect those on the front lines responding to emergency calls. The federal budget should include specific resources for equipping and educating all law enforcement officers with overdose reversing agents approved by the Federal Drug Administration. The National Drug Control Strategy has called for arming first responders to recognize and manage overdoses since 2010.
Additionally, the vast majority of opioid overdoses are unintentional. Medicaid beneficiaries are prescribed painkillers at twice the rate of non-Medicaid patients and are three to six times more likely to overdose. These patients should be protected from accidental overdose. This would be cost effective for government payers.
Average Intensive Care Unit costs are more than $92,000 per opioid overdose in the U.S. and 50 percent of opioid related emergency room visits were paid for by Medicaid or Medicare in 2014. Studies show patients who receive a naloxone co-prescription had 47 percent fewer opioid-related emergency room visits per month in the six months after receipt and 63 percent fewer visits after one year compared with patients who did not receive naloxone. Co-prescribing naloxone would provide tremendous cost savings to the state. The Florida Small Business Development Center Network encourages Congress to fund these proposals and we look forward to seeing Florida shine out from under the dark cloud of addiction and overdoses. Our small businesses and their families depend on it.
Michael Myhre is the chief executive officer of the Florida Small Business Development Center Network.