The opioid epidemic, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and estimated costs for special education services

Paul L. Morgan, Yangyang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Children whose mothers used or misused opioids during their pregnancies are at an increased risk of exhibiting cognitive or behavioral impairments in the future, which may result in identifiable disabilities that require special education services in school. The costs associated with these additional educational services, however, have remained unknown. Using data from available empirical work, we calculated a preliminary set of cost estimates of special education and related services for children diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). We estimated these costs for a single cohort of children from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with a diagnosis of NAS. The resulting cost estimates were $16,506,916 (2017 US$) in total educational services provisions, with $8,253,458 (2017 US$) of these costs attributable to the additional provision of special education services. This estimate includes both opioid use during pregnancy that was linked to NAS in general and NAS that resulted specifically from prescription opioid use. We estimate the total annual education costs for children born in Pennsylvania with NAS associated with maternal use of prescription opioids to be $1,012,506 (2017 US$). Of these costs, we estimate that $506,253 (2017 US$) are attributable to the additional provision of special education services. We detail the calculation of these cost estimates and provide an expanded set of estimates for additional years of special education services (3-year, 5-year, and 13-year, or the K-12 educational time frame). We conclude with a discussion of limitations and suggestions for future work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S264-S269
JournalThe American journal of managed care
Volume25
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy

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