Ohio advisors team up with the state to battle opioid addiction

Lori Eisel has a unique perspective on opioid addiction as both a veteran CFP in one of the states hit the hardest by the ongoing epidemic and as the mother of a son still walking his path to recovery.

Eisel, president of Arcadia Financial Partners in Pickerington, Ohio, said like most families directly impacted by opioid abuse, hers felt blindsided when they learned that her son’s drug use that started in middle school ballooned out of control as he approached adulthood.

Lori Eisel, president of Arcadia Financial Partners, speaks during the Recovery Within Reach launch in Columbus, Ohio.

The State of Ohio

“I didn’t know where to start,” Eisel said. “After one round of treatment, he told us that he actually started using marijuana in seventh grade. He was 13 years old, and gradually that evolved into other things —ills and alcohol. And there was a massive amount of out-of-pocket expense working through treatment options with him.”

Eisel said luckily, her family had insurance to help offset the costs of their new reality. But she knows that not everyone is so fortunate.

She added that many of the costs that come with a lifetime of battling addiction fall outside of the scope of an insurance plan and have little to do with dollars or cents.

“Lost wages, healthcare expenses, automobile accidents, the costs that insurance won’t necessarily cover,” Eisel said. “It can be financially and emotionally devastating for families.”

If not experienced first-hand, families dealing with opioid use disorder are often unaware of the financial and mental toll it takes until it’s too late. But a new statewide campaign aims to change that for Ohioans, and Buckeye officials believe empowering financial advisors is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

On Tuesday, the state unveiled what its calling “Recovery Within Reach,” an awareness and education initiative led by the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Securities designed to train the state’s financial advisors and connect the general public with critical information about the economic impact of opioid addiction.

According to the department, 13 Ohioans die each day from unintended drug overdoses, and opioids account for 83% of all drug overdoses in the state. Ohio has the fourth highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, and the median financial impact of opioid misuse/addiction is estimated to be approximately $35,000 per family per year.

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that 1 in 13 Ohioans has a substance use disorder, and that the state has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the nation. The CDC reports more than 68,000 opioid-involved overdose deaths in 2020, a significant increase from the approximately 21,000 in 2010.

Knowing the scale of the problem, Ohio Securities Commissioner Andrea Seidt said Gov. Mike DeWine challenged all of the state’s agencies to figure out what could be done to help.

“I knew that our financial services industry could play a role. I just wasn’t quite sure what it was in the beginning because we don’t have substance use or mental health experts on our staff,” Seidt said during a Tuesday morning press conference. “So we set out to learn about the crisis ourselves at the agency, and then we did some research to figure out how financial advisors were dealing with it in the state as well.”

Seidt said nationally, more than a third of financial advisors report having clients who struggled with the costs of opioid addiction and rehabilitation. But a survey conducted by her office focused on Ohio advisors revealed that they often don’t know if or when their clients are struggling.

Seidt said because clients are too afraid to talk about it and advisors are not trained on how to spot the financial warning signs, they underestimate the problem.

The survey found that Ohio advisors believe just 1% of their clients have had finances affected by opioid addiction, and only 10% of advisors report ever completing a training program to help clients impacted by opioid use disorder.

But the desire to help is there. Around 74% of advisors would consider participating in opioid-related training if made available to them.

“To be honest … I was just shocked. I know I hear about it every day. You can’t pick up a paper or read a headline without knowing how serious this epidemic is raging in our state,” she said. “We’re kind of the epicenter of the crisis in our country, so I was shocked to see only 1%. We knew that we needed to educate them. We needed to make them a tool in this fight, and that’s what Recovery Within Reach is all about.”

With the effort, the state is rolling out a new tool that allows families to find nearby treatment facilities with a variety of payment options to make recovery more accessible. Plans for advisors and consumer education includes public service announcements, a website with advisor training resources and guidance; and an advertisement campaign that will target digital, radio and print.

Individuals searching for treatment through a new mapping system will also be encouraged to work with a licensed financial professional to address the cost of treatment. Training and collateral for financial advisors are being developed to help them start what could be difficult conversations with clients, but also advise them on next steps.

“Financial advisors will be taught to spot the warning signs and will realize that the people affected by opioid addiction are not always those who have substance use disorder,” Seidt said. “Parents. Grandparents. Siblings and other family members. Neighbors. They feel both the emotional and the financial toll when someone they love is dealing with addiction. Our financial advisors are trusted fiduciaries. And I know that they want to help their clients, but they don’t know how.”

Aimee Shadwick, director of state public health and awareness group RecoveryOhio, said during Tuesday’s press conference that overdose deaths cost Ohio $72 billion dollars annually, more than any other state in the nation.

She said while these figures are bleak, Recovery Within Reach is an initiative focused on hope. Like Eisel, Shadwick is also walking alongside a family member who suffers from addiction and knows that progress is possible.

“The resources that we can offer to Ohioans can hopefully turn the tide on those numbers,” she said. “We know the treatment works and recovery happens. And scientific studies show us that almost half of adults who meet the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder are currently in stable remission one year or longer in recovery.

“It’s imperative that we continue to remove barriers to treatment for individuals who are ready to begin the recovery process and help families navigate addiction treatment and the recovery process.”

Eisel, who shared her story during Tuesday morning’s press conference, believes financial advisors can be a first line of defense in spotting the red flags associated with substance abuse.

“Clients taking cash from their portfolios, whether large or small amounts, repeatedly buying vehicles, raiding retirement plans — things like that,” she said. “Often we see clients coming to our offices after they’ve financially ruined their families. We would like to see them more proactively reach out to financial planners to help them plan for the cost of treatment and to understand what resources are available so they’ re not raiding their retirement plans and putting themselves at financial risk.”

She added a lot of people feel like there’s no hope, and that opioid addiction is a life sentence.

“But there is hope,” she said. “Thankfully my son has been through several rounds of treatment. He is currently living in recovery and seeing some success. This is not a one-and-done sort of situation. And I would love to see people reaching out.

“We can be that first line of defense at helping connect them with those resources.”

Source: https://www.financial-planning.com/news/ohio-advisors-team-up-with-the-state-to-battle-opioid-addiction

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