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Ohio AG says study shows connection between stimulus checks and opioid overdose deaths

Darwin Brandis

Ohio’s attorney general says a study done by his office shows a connection between federal stimulus checks sent out during the first months of the pandemic and a rise in opioid overdose deaths.

Republican Attorney General Dave Yost said an investigator who works on the opioid crisis in his office assembled a team to look into stimulus payments after the pandemic began and deaths from opioid overdoses.

The team used data from the Ohio Department of Health andproduced a peer-reviewed study that Yost said showed a causal connection between stimulus checks sent out to help people suffering economically in the second quarter of 2020 and opioid deaths, which hit a record in Ohio not long afterward.

Opioid deaths outside Ohio soared as well, with a record of over 100,000 deaths across the country, a 28% increase over the previous year.

"There is a connection. It's not the only connection, but there is a causal connection between the stimulus money and the spike we saw in overdose deaths," Yost said.

Yost said the wide distribution of stimulus checks shows broad measures create broad impacts, "and some of those impacts are unintended. The only law I like to say that is universally obeyed is the law of unintended consequences. That's certainly what we have here."

Yost said he’s not trying to cast blame on the Trump administration, which sent out those checks, but that it’s important to consider how to structure payments like this if they happen in the future.

“Facts are not mean. They're just the facts. And we shouldn't ignore them. We ignore facts at our peril," Yost said. "Let's think about what it means and how it means we can get better."

The study “COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments and Opioid Deaths” will be published in the April 2022 volume of the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.