An Indiana senator who has been a major voice in the battle against the opioid epidemic says addiction is causing companies to relax their drug testing rules. "People are having to not drug test when they ordinarily would to get employees," says Jim Merritt (R-31). He believes those companies are hopeful that, if an employee has addiction issues, they can resolve them in-house without termination. The recently-released Indiana University Kelley School of Business economic forecast pegs the annual economic cost of the epidemic at more than $1 billion in the state.
Merritt was one of several lawmakers that last month praised President Donald Trump for declaring the nation’s opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. At the time, he said the issue "has impacted every household in our state and nation in one way or another," and that lawmakers "are working diligently to kill this epidemic in Indiana."
Kyle Anderson, one of the economists behind the IU Kelley forecast, says, in addition to the public health toll, opioid misuse takes qualified people out of the work force and impacts the productivity of those who are working. The report estimates the annual loss in Indiana’s Gross State Product as a result of the epidemic to be between $1.25 billion and $1.8 billion.
Fighting addiction is the focus of Indiana University’s third Grand Challenges initiative, which Merritt says is an "exceptional statement." The $50 million effort will bring together resources from the university’s seven campuses throughout the state for projects covering issues including substance abuse prevention, early intervention, treatment, recovery and enforcement and the training of addictions professionals.
"As I’ve said many times," says Merritt, "6.6 million Hoosiers…everyone is affected by this scourge in one way or another."