Lawmakers and local organizations are getting serious about the prescription drug abuse epidemic.
In the past week, East Tennessee State University held a two-day prescription drug abuse summit, Wellmont Health Systems held a three-hour prescription drug abuse conference and in the next legislative session, state Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, plans to introduce new legislation to combat prescription drug abuse.
There is high interest in battling a problem that is pervasive in Appalachia, as evidenced by the hundreds of people who showed up at both events. A lot of learning took place for those attending.
“I found it to be valuable,” said Barry Staubus, District Attorney General for Sullivan County. “It was very practical. It provided more information about the cause of the problem.”
Staubus attended the Appalachian Regional Summit on prescription drug abuse held at ETSU. The summit featured speakers from throughout Appalachia. One of those speakers was John Deskins, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University, who discussed the cost the epidemic has in the region.
During his presentation, Deskins said the estimated economic impact for Appalachia is $42 billion. Costs include $2.2 billion for treatment and $8.2 billion for criminal justice costs with the rest of the costs coming from lost productivity. Productivity includes people who have overdosed or are in jail and are not contributing to the work force.Read more in Sunday’s print edition of the Times-News or in the expanded electronic edition.