WVU economist estimates opioid epidemic cost state $1B

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia University's chief economist estimates the opioid epidemic has cost the state economy nearly $1 billion from deaths, lost or underperformed jobs and public resources.

John Deskins, director of WVU's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, says the estimate includes $322 million in productivity lost from fatalities, $316 million in productivity lost from addicted people working below peak levels and $320 million tied up in health care, addiction treatment and police, courts, jails and prisons.

West Virginia recorded 884 overdose deaths last year, most involving at least one opioid, with 558 fatalities through mid-October this year.

Deskins says the state economy has improved from the dip in the energy industry over the past two years, but says progress would be greater without the strain from the drug epidemic.

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