Friday, November 28, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;31.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/sct.png;2014-11-28 15:28:25
Saturday, January 19, 2013

Economist study gives ammunition to alcohol treatment proponents

CONCORD – Excess alcohol consumption costs the state $1.15 billion annually, or 2 percent of all income earned in New Hampshire, according to an economist’s report released Friday.

Linda Saunders Paquette, president of New Futures in Concord, said the “landmark” analysis should give policymakers the ammunition needed to support prevention and treatment programs. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

CONCORD – Excess alcohol consumption costs the state $1.15 billion annually, or 2 percent of all income earned in New Hampshire, according to an economist’s report released Friday.

Linda Saunders Paquette, president of New Futures in Concord, said the “landmark” analysis should give policymakers the ammunition needed to support prevention and treatment programs.

Economist Brian Gottlob, of PolEcon Research, said his study was deliberate in coming to its conclusions.

“We were conservative in our estimates; we didn’t want to inflate them,” he said at a news conference. “The problem is significant all by itself.”

The report notes that this research is much more limited in the past than studies about tobacco use even though more people abuse alcohol in the state than those who smoke cigarettes.

“Alcohol is the most socially acceptable, potentially addictive substance in the United States,” the report said.

Excessive alcohol consumption is defined as binge drinking, which is five drinks in one sitting by a male or four by a female; drinking by a pregnant woman; illegal or underage drinking; or heavy users over a long period.

The report found that private businesses bear three-quarters of the costs, principally from lost productivity or absenteeism of employees. This problem reduces the workforce by about 9,300 workers, or 1.3 percent of all employees, and lowers earnings by $400 million.

The earnings of those with alcohol problems are more than 10 percent lower than those without any incidence.

Joseph Fletcher, of Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington, said it’s difficult in many cases to ascertain whether someone isn’t working or performing well because of a problem with alcohol.

“We don’t have a large issue, but undeniably, it is there,” Fletcher said.

Alcohol also costs the health care system $180 million through hospital treatment, ambulatory care and other costs.

“I think this report gives us a clear diagnosis of what the problem is,” said Dr. Travis Hasker, of Concord Hospital, president of the New Hampshire Medical Society.

Tricia Lucas, advocacy director for New Futures, said she hopes the report convinces lawmakers that it’s wise to invest in substance abuse prevention and treatment.

The report found only 4 percent of the 96,000 people in the state who need treatment get it, which is the second-lowest percentage in the country, ahead of only Texas.

For nearly 20 years, the state has had a legal requirement that 5 percent of state profits from liquor and wine sales had to go into substance abuse treatment. That would equal $8.5 million a year. But the Legislature has suspended that law for more than a decade, and currently is devoting only $1.5 million a year for such grants.

The group supports the proposed increase in the state beer tax of 10 cents a gallon, which would generate $4.5 million a year for treatment programs.

“We realize that’s a heavy lift for the Legislature in these tough times,” Lucas said.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said earlier this week she would veto the bill, which faces a public hearing before a House committee next week.

Here are other findings in the report:

State-local taxpayer costs: $251 million. Most of this money is spent on the prosecution and incarceration of people with substance abuse problems. State prison officials report 85 percent of male inmates have that history; the rate at the State Prison for Women in Goffstown is even higher than that, officials said.

Arrests: Alcohol-
related conduct accounts for 30 percent of arrests and 13 percent of all crime in the state.

Motor vehicle crashes: Alcohol is blamed for 46 percent of crashes that result in death and 21 percent of nonfatal collisions.

Alcohol cost recovery fee: Another potential revenue option would be to impose a mitigation fee equal to 3 cents per drink, which would translate the effective tax on alcohol of 1.3-3.5 percent, depending on the beverage.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also,
follow Landrigan on Twitter
(@Klandrigan).