According to a peer-reviewed research project commissioned by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and based on data from the Ohio Department of Health, the high number of opioid deaths in 2020 may have been caused by the stimulus checks delivered in April of that year.
According to a study by the Ohio Capital-Journal, there were 100,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States in 2016, which was also the highest number since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began monitoring the statistics in 1999, according to the article.
A study published last month found that policy responses to the outbreak had inadvertently contributed to the epidemic’s escalation by exacerbating its spread.
“Though these government-provided economic assistance payments are designed to help people meet their basic requirements, it is possible that they are contributing to an increase in overdose deaths and a cyclical pattern of substance abuse.”
Our region has been plagued by a substance abuse epidemic for at least a decade. That bit isn’t breaking news. Continuing to sort through which programs and solutions are making a difference and which are failing is critical for our public officials to do their jobs effectively.
Furthermore, we must not pretend that the vast majority of the steps we implemented during the first few months of COVID-19 in 2020 did not have some unexpected repercussions.
We are only now beginning to make our way out of the quagmire that was created when the economy came to a virtual standstill. Millions of jobs were lost in the first quarter of 2020, with many of them never to be replaced as some businesses went out of business or downsized.
People were cut off from their families and friends, and they were instructed not to visit them for fear of being killed. The holidays were postponed. Vacations and events were canceled.
Workout facilities are no longer available. Schools were entirely virtual, and parents were forced to deal with the additional stress of job loss / figuring out how to work from home while also assisting in the education of their children.
More than 910,000 people in the United States have died as a result of the virus, leaving behind family and friends to mourn their deaths and, in many cases, unable to experience the closure given by funerals.
That is correct, then, that the Trump administration determined that it was necessary to launch a federal stimulus program beginning in April 2020. At the same time, we were all feeling a tremendous amount of psychological pressure.
It should come as no surprise that some people resorted to a possibly lethal coping strategy during that period. However, as we all know, correlation does not necessarily imply causation.
Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on a commissioned report that appears to have been used to look for the negative consequences of stimulus payments, energy and financial resources should be directed toward figuring out how to pull Ohioans’ mental health out of the abyss that has been wallowing for the past two decades.
Almost everyone who participated in the study suffered from psychological trauma. A greater number of people should be able to pay for and receive mental health services, including addiction and recovery programs.
If public officials do a better job of prioritizing their spending, we have an opportunity to limit the amount of damage.