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Supply Chain News: US Manufacturing and the Opioid Crisis


Interesting Look from MAPI on Counties with High Manufacturing and Opioid Drug Deaths

Aug. 1, 2018
SCDigest Editorial Staff

The opioid crisis has hit many areas of the country hard, with a huge toll on individuals, families and communities, especially in many areas of the Midwest.

Just to quantify the scope of the crisis, overall US drug overdoses killed more people in just one year in 2016 than the total number of US soldiers who died during the entire Vietnam War. The main cause of all those deaths is the opioid crisis, with two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in 2016 (the last year for which there is good data) involved a prescription or illicit opioid.

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Amazingly, in 2015 the US spent 2.8% of its GDP on the opioid crisis, according to The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). Drug crises generate excess medical, substance abuse treatment, and drug prevention costs. There are many other costs, such as opioids playing a role in the growing ranks of those seeking disability status and payments, that are real but difficult to quantify.

Certainly, the opioid crisis must be having an impact on US manufacturing as well. But as noted in a recent report from MAPI, the Manufacturing Alliance, a research organization, relatively little data or analysis has been focused in this area. So MAPI did some work on its own.

The MAPI Foundation analyzed the intersection of the current drug crisis and manufacturing to understand the risk it poses to the manufacturing sector's long-term health. It did so by compareing manufacturing employment from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and drug overdose deaths from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify the US counties with the highest share of manufacturing employment and most drug overdose deaths.

"Our findings illustrate the velocity with which the drug crisis has grown in manufacturing-centric counties, what it means for the industry today and in the future, and why manufacturers need to be vigilant and proactive," the MAPI report notes.

The report also says that while many manufacturing companies have a general feel for how much the drug crisis affects their operations, few fully understand the scale of the problem or can quantify the impact.

MAPI says opioids were a minor issue until 2009 – the depths of the Great Recession. But the crisis really expanded from 2011-2016, with an average of 44% more manufacturing-centric counties joinin a list of counties with the most overdose deaths each year. By the end of 2016, 70 counties that rely the most on manufacturing employment, located in 20 states, were grappling with high rates of the deadly addiction.

Certain states are more at risk than others, with Ohio cited as a prime example of a potential negative impact. The state had 687,400 manufacturing workers and generated $108 billion in total manufacturing output that year. Ohio's total manufacturing output represents 4.9% of total US. manufacturing output, putting it third in the US after California and Texas. Ohio is also home to four of the counties with the highest drug overdose deaths and the highest share of manufacturing employment.

MAPI says that "It may be tempting to dismiss 70 counties as a small number in crisis. Another 201 counties that have the highest share of manufacturing employment are seeing more than the national median of drug overdose deaths as well. Put another way, 40% of the country's manufacturing-centric counties are experiencing the worst of the drug crisis."

Based on the historical trends, MAPI says it is safe to say that in the next few years, a number of these 201 counties will find themselves deeper in crisis. The acceleration and penetration of this crisis have followed a consistent path across the country, and each year it has gotten worse. There's no evidence of it slowing down yet.

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Those 201 at risk counties are shown in the graphic below from MAPI.

There is already a significant shortage of manufacturing workers in many areas of the country. That is likely to get worse as some factors are leading to more production in the US, while a generally aging manufacturing workforce sees growth in workers leaving the labor pool.

"Our analysis has found that in the US the drug crisis is accelerating in communities with large manufacturing workforces. If this trend continues unchecked, it will have profound effects on manufacturing in the future," MAPI says.

Obviously governments are multiple levels are trying to find programs and policies to turn the opioid crisis tide. But MAPI has some advice for manufacturers themselves:

1. Acknowledge that this problem has already arrived at your door. Unlike past drug crises, the opioid crisis is partially caused by the over-prescription of a legitimate pain medication making all prescribed individuals susceptible to an unintentional dependency. Employees who work in counties with lower prescription rates are not immune. Ignoring the intersection of the drug crisis and manufacturing will not change the reality of the situation. You can self-assess the risk to your manufacturing footprint using our national drug overdose map.

2. Raise awareness of the drug crisis with your employees. Many prescription opioid addictions are unintentional. Enhance your wellness program with educational programs to raise the awareness of the risks of prescription opioids and how to use pain medication safely.

3. Learn the signs of opioid abuse. An employee taking the proper dose of a prescription opioid is not a problem, but those taking more than the recommended dosage will cycle between some level of impairment and withdrawal while at work. Human resource professionals and managers should all learn the signs to identify employees posing a risk to workplace safety to themselves and others.
The full report is available here: Ignorance Isn't Bliss. The Impact of Opioids on Manufacturing

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