One of the economists behind the 2018 Indiana University Kelley School of Business economic forecast says Indiana’s opioid epidemic is an "absolutely urgent" issue from a public health and economic standpoint. Kyle Anderson says opioid misuse impacts the number of people in the labor force as well as the productivity of those who are working. The report pegs the estimated annual loss in Indiana’s Gross State Product as a result of the epidemic between $1.25 billion and $1.8 billion.

President Donald Trump last week declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. Many Indiana leaders, including Governor Eric Holcomb and Senator Joe Donnelly praised the move, saying the state and the nation need an "all-hands-on-deck approach" to tackle the problem. 

The addiction crisis is also at the center of Indiana University’s third Grand Challenges initiative. The $50 million project, announced last month, will bring together resources from the university’s seven campuses throughout the state to develop what the school calls one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive state-based responses to the opioid epidemic. The effort, called Responding to the Addiction Crisis, also includes partnerships with state officials, IU Health and Eskenazi Health.

Overall, the forecast painted a mostly positive picture for national and state economic growth. It projects Gross State Product growth of 2.8 percent, outpacing the projected national growth of 2.6 percent. Even so, researchers do not expect Indiana’s unemployment rate to fall much below its current level, since the state remains at or near full employment.

Anderson says one of Indiana’s biggest hurdles is education and training levels. He says that is especially a problem for employers in what is already a tight labor market.

A panel of economists will tour the state over the next two weeks to present the national, state and local economic forecasts. You can find more on the statewide tour by clicking here.