With U.S. unemployment numbers at rock bottom, finding enough new hires is already tough. A new report from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce cites research suggesting that opioid addiction is making it even harder, accounting for bigger declines in labor force participation than alcohol or other drugs. One study estimates that as many as half of all men ages 24 to 54 who have dropped out of the U.S. workforce are misusing pain medication.
“Employers are feeling the impact firsthand,” notes Beth Davisson, Executive Director of the Kentucky Chamber’s Workforce Center. “As businesses struggle to find and retain workers, the opioid crisis is making the challenges even greater.” Together with with the Kentucky Cabinets for Health and Family Services and Justice & Public Safety , biopharmaceutical company Alkermes, and Aetna, the Center has launched a new attack on opioid abuse.
Called the Opioid Response Program for Business with oversight from an employer Task Force, the group’s 24 members include big employers like Toyota, GE, and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. The program is sharing best practices, and actively supporting state government programs that could turn back the tide of opioid addiction in Kentucky (currently the number of addicts is rising by more than 11% per year). The program works directly with employers auditing their policies and recommending best practices to maintaining a drug-free workplace while supporting a recovery-friendly culture. It focuses on destigmatizing the addiction epidemic and supporting employers’ role in opioid prevention, treatment and recovery in the workplace.