When GE moved its headquarters from Connecticut to Boston in 2016, David Barash, the GE Foundation’s executive director, looked for statistics on how the opioid crisis affected the state’s workforce; he couldn’t find any. So, in partnership with anti-opioid-abuse nonprofit RIZE, the foundation funded a pair of detailed studies, with two goals. The first was to measure opioids’ impact on employers. Nationally, that total came to $1.7 billion-a-year, including lost productivity and absenteeism.
The second step: Making business leaders aware, not just of what opioid abuse in the workplace costs them, but also what they can do about it. The GE Foundation and RIZE sponsor forums where employers from all over the U.S. can learn how to recognize the signs of opioid abuse, minimize the stigma that can stop people from seeking help, and refer workers to treatment programs. Notes Barash, “This is very much a workplace issue — not just a problem on the street corner but within our four walls.”
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