All of us know the human costs of excessive alcohol consumption. In our work we see the impact on individuals, families and communities in human terms. Problem drinking is something we see all too often. New Hampshire ranks among the top five heaviest drinking states. Some estimates place us first in per capita beer consumption while at the same time we rank 49th in access to substance abuse treatment. An estimated 96,000 residents are in need of treatment for excessive drinking but only 4% of them receive treatment.  Unfortunately, these statistics and our patients' stories have had little impact in garnering attention to expand prevention and treatment given the current economic environment until now. Last Friday, New Futures released a report that quantifies the costs of excessive alcohol intake on New Hampshire in dollars and cents and the results are shocking.

Problem drinking costs New Hampshire $1.15 billion dollars annually. Overall health care costs only account for 15% of that amount; of which treatment costs are only 5%.  The largest proportion of costs is attributed to alcohol's impact on productivity as defined by lower workforce participation, impaired productivity, and absenteeism.  While the overall cost to our state (both private and public sectors) for each of the 96,000 people in need of treatment is $11,989, the cost of treating these individuals is estimated at $2,452 per person.  If we only look at state costs ($2,615), treatment is still more cost effective than the status quo. This report clearly demonstrates that preventing and treating excessive alcohol consumption is not only the right thing to do but it will save money and would be a wise investment during these troubled economic times.

While Governor Hassan has indicated that she would not impose a tax on alcohol sales to support prevention or treatment or to generate revenue for the state, she has indicated that she supports expanding Medicaid.  Medicaid expansion would open up treatment for many of these individuals in need of treatment.  NHMS will focus our advocacy efforts there to address this critical issue.