Report: Drug fatalities cost Richmond County $7.4M in 2016

By: By Gavin Stone - Staff Writer

ROCKINGHAM — New data released by the North Carolina Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the economic impact of medication and drug overdoses in Richmond County.

In 2016, the combined cost of fatalities from medication and drugs — regardless of whether it was suicide or accidental, and not limited to deaths from opioids — to Richmond County was $7,420,168, according to the NCCHS. This number combines the $32,502 in total medical costs spent treating those victims and the total lost by employers of victims in terms of labor value and efforts to mitigate that loss which was $7,387,666.

The cost per capita of medical and work loss from medication and drug fatalities, regardless of intent, to Richmond County in 2016 was $165.12.

Social Services Director Robby Hall said he received the information on Monday as part of the Drug Endangered Family Task Force’s ongoing efforts to collect information about Richmond County’s drug problems in accordance with recent directives from the state.

“When you look at opioid impact, you have to look at all the different issues — not just family … issues but also how is it affecting your community as a whole, or what impact is it having on your workforce, (your ability) to attract new business,” Hall said. “So what we’re trying to show is, if this is how much is lost from the epidemic, how much do you need to invest to mitigate that loss?”

This data, along with what is collected from members of the task force who represent fields that have all been touched by the opioid crisis, will be shared in a series of upcoming events directed at both professionals and the general public. It will then be used to guide policy, grant applications and new hires for DSS, according to Hall.

These figures are not related to the damages the county is seeking as part of a wide-ranging lawsuit the county has joined — along with hundreds of other local governments nationwide — against companies along the prescription drug supply chain for their role in the opioid crisis. There is not yet an estimation of how much the plaintiffs in these lawsuits could receive.

The Richmond County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in February declaring an opioid crisis in the county. The county is currently ranked fourth in the state in opioid pills per resident at 132.2 — well above the state average of 78.3 — according to statistics from the County Leadership Forum on Opioid Abuse. The county’s rate of unintentional medication and drug overdose rates are also significantly higher than the state average at 18.8 deaths per 100,000 residents compared to 12.2 statewide, according to the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics.

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]

By Gavin Stone

Staff Writer