Editorial: Public costs of drug treatment are essential


The Bartholomew County Drug Addiction Public Funding Board has recommended $1.22 million in city and county funding for local drug treatment efforts. Columbus City Council and Bartholomew County Council are expected to fund every penny of this request, if not more. We struggle to think of a more pressing local concern.

We have an unrelenting crisis on our hands, as does the rest of the state and nation, compliments of the opioid/fentanyl plague. As Andy East of The Republic reported, Bartholomew County is on track this year to continue setting another record for overdose deaths. In the latest grim new record last year, 33 people in the county died from drug overdoses. So far in 2022, 19 people have died – three more than at this point last year, according to coroner Clayton Nolting.

And that says nothing of the many other people in our community who struggle with addiction.

Some may scoff at spending public money on drug treatment, but the costs are a drop in the bucket, and in truth, we’re not spending enough to help people who really need it. most desperate time. Hence the infuriating expectations for treatment beds.

Of course, $1.22 million seems like a lot of money. But the combined public budgets of Columbus City and Bartholomew County total more than $142 million a year. So even when applications are fully funded, we spend less than 1% of our total local government funding helping people recover from addiction.

This money funds many worthy efforts. As East reported, about half of that sum — $555,380 — goes to the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress (ASAP). An additional $248,195 is going to the Bartholomew County Adult Drug Recovery Court, $229,780 is going to Community Corrections’ Recovery Enables a Life for Men (REALM) program, and $189,414 is going to the Treatment for Men program. addiction at Bartholomew County Jail.

All of these and more deserve our support as a community.

It’s nearly impossible to calculate the true, monumental toll of opioid addiction, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attempted to do so last year. In a detailed report based on 2017 data, the CDC concluded that the costs to American society from fatal overdoses and opioid addiction amount to more than $1 trillion annually.

In Indiana, the CDC estimates that opioid overdose deaths and addiction cost more than $26 billion each year. This includes the costs of health care, treatment, criminal justice costs, lost productivity and income, reduced quality of life and other factors. Extrapolating this data on a per capita basis, the CDC’s findings suggest that the costs of all of these opioid-related factors combined could be on the order of $300 million per year in Bartholomew County alone.

And those are just the dollar costs. This does not take into account any human costs. Addiction not only affects the user, but also families, relationships, neighborhoods and entire communities.

We are never going to eradicate addiction from the human condition. However, our community — and especially those to whom we entrust the task of representing us — has a deep obligation to help those who need and want it. To do otherwise would not simply be bad governance. It would be inhuman.


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