Even before the opioid crisis peaked here in 2016, Ohio was already spending about the same on opioid dependency statewide as it did kindergarten through high school education, according to a recently released study.

The enormous price tag in 2015 of opioid dependency in the state was somewhere between $6.6 billion and $8.8 billion. During the same time, the state spent about $8.2 billion on public education, according to the study released by Ohio State University’s C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy.

Your Voice Ohio, a news collaborative, highlighted the study last week as the state’s behavioral health, addiction and rehabilitation workers are preparing to host the ninth annual opiate conference in Columbus next month. The two-day educational event is expected to draw 1,200 people.

The study, “Taking Measure of Ohio’s Opioid Crisis,” aims to help policymakers make better decisions by evaluating the crisis.

Among other things, the study zeroed in on the costs of opioid addiction across four categories: Health care and treatment, criminal justice, lost productivity among opioid abusers, and lost productivity following an overdose death.

In 2015 — the most recent numbers used for this part of the study — those costs added up to between $500 and $999 for every person in Summit, Portage and Wayne counties, regardless of whether they used drugs themselves.

The costs in Stark and Medina were lower, somewhere between $0 and $499 per person, the study said. But costs skyrocketed in the southwest part of Ohio, averaging more than $1,000 per capita in an area stretching from Dayton and Cincinnati east to Lawrence County, Ohio’s most southern county, which borders West Virginia.

Because costs were so extraordinary in southwest Ohio, the study said “state efforts to reduce current and future opioid abuse should likely focus on this area of the state.”

It is not clear, however, if the arrival of fentanyl and carfentanil — which hit Summit County in 2016, a year after the costs were calculated in the study — has changed which parts of the state have been hit hardest by the evolving opioid crisis.

To read the full study, go to: https://bit.ly/2Lp8WvT

Overdoses among Summit County residents ticked down May 18 through Thursday.

A weekly report by public health officials shows that 20 residents sought hospital emergency room help for an overdose during that time.

Nearly 95 percent of those were white, a little more than half were women and those seeking treatment had an average age of 41.

That works out to less than three overdoses per day, compared to 2016 when it was common for 19 people per day to show up in area hospital emergency rooms after overdosing.

Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or agarrett@thebeaconjournal.com.