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The Soaring Cost of Addiction in South Florida

The Soaring Cost of Addiction in South Florida

Written by: stodzy | Date: January 5, 2017

In the last hundred or so years and especially in the last decade, there has been an alarming increase in the rate of addiction which, in turn, has had a massive impact on the medical and healthcare industry.

In the U.S., the yearly economic impact of substance abuse is estimated at $249 billion for alcohol and $193 billion for illicit drugs. This includes costs related to crime, work productivity and healthcare. In some states, the costs are higher than others and the cost of addiction in South Florida is enormous – primarily hospital costs related to overdoses and adverse reactions to either heroin or its synthetic and more powerful sisters, fentanyl, and carfentanil.

The Cost of Addiction in South Florida – The Numbers

According to the Palm Beach Post, in the first eight months of 2016, hospital costs related to heroin and opiate overdoses topped out at $1.1 billion. While 2016 was reported to be the worst year to date, the rates show no sign of decreasing. The Post reported that in 2016, county firefighters handled 75 percent more opioid-related overdoses than they did during the last eight months of 2015. There were 1,246 opioid-related overdoses in 2016, which is a jump from the 711 overdoses during the same time period in 2015.

The following data collected and published by the Palm Beach Post breaks down exactly how serious the heroin/fentanyl epidemic has become in the State of Florida.

  • $460.6 million: Florida hospital charges tied to the heroin epidemic for the first nine months of 2010; $1.1 billion for the first nine months of 2015.
  • $5.7 billion: All Florida hospital charges tied to the heroin epidemic between 2010 and late 2015.
  • $2.1 billion: Amount of all Florida hospital charges tied to the heroin epidemic in which Medicaid was the primary payer.
  • $967 million: Florida hospital charges for babies born addicted between 2010 and 2015.
  • $826 million: Amount where Florida Medicaid was the primary payer for babies born addicted between 2010 and 2015.
  • One every two days: Average number of Florida patients treated for heroin overdoses in 2011; one every 90 minutes from July through September 2015.

The Taxpayers

Over a period of six years, through healthcare services such as Medicare and Florida’s continually tight-budgeted Medicaid program, taxpayers footed $3.9 billion of the $5.7 billion bill. Florida’s Medicaid program, among the costliest in state government, was billed $2.1 billion as the primary insurer for the hospitalizations. By late 2015, the billings averaged roughly $1 million a day more than in 2010. In addition, with the ever increasing onslaught of overdose cases in hospitals, a large percentage of the treatment is administered to people with inadequate insurance or no insurance. The losses frequently go uncovered by insurance or completely unpaid and are shifted to other paying patients and insurance companies.

woman high on heroin being helped


One of the most alarming aspects of the medical costs is just how much is being funneled into Medicaid. Medicaid covers most low-income Americans, and, statistically speaking, those are the ones primarily affected by the heroin epidemic.

In Naples, FL, the Medicaid bill for heroin-related hospital treatment grew by 247 percent between 2010 and 2015, to $3.9 million.

During that year, Disney’s co-founded city of Celebration’s heroin-related hospital charges grew by 48 percent; the amount billed to Florida Medicaid doubled. During those five years, the number of infants born addicted was a $967 million statewide problem for hospitals and five of every six dollars were billed to Medicaid, the Post found.

Hospital charges for only 97 addicted infants exceeded $1 million;  a single child with brain damage due to an addicted mother spent more than a year in the hospital generating an $11.8 million bill, which Medicaid received in full. Care for a Palm Beach County girl totaled $4.2 million; which Medicaid received as well. In Palm Beach County six years ago, it took 18 months of treatment for sick babies to run up a $3.4 million hospital bill; by late 2015, it took three months.

All in all, it is painfully obvious that the heroin epidemic has had a massive impact on not only the lives of thousands of Americans but on the overall economic standing in the country as well. One of the main reasons why the government hasn’t identified the crisis as a critical health emergency is because, to put it simply, they don’t have a solution to offer the public on how to deal with the issue. That being said, local governments and risk prevention programs are working to increase communication and education on the topic of addiction and what can be done. In the meantime, the cost of addiction in South Florida will continue to skyrocket, and all we can do is wait for something to give.

Kick Your Addiction in South Florida with Wayside House

If you are a woman struggling with addiction, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare. Contact Wayside House today at 800-655-0817 to learn more.