Earlier this year, Gov. Tom Wolf accurately described Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic as a “state of emergency.” The current addiction crisis requires all of us to respond with urgent, effective, coordinated action.
Last week, the Central Pennsylvania business community increased our capabilities to help. Although many people may think of addiction as happening on our streets, it also arrives to work each day. In fact, according to the National Safety Council seven in 10 employers have been directly affected by prescription drug misuse.
It’s an issue few business owners, managers and human resource professionals were initially prepared to deal with, but we have been working together to identify solutions and share best practices to safeguard our workers, their families and our neighborhoods.
Last week’s “Opioids in the Workplace” training hosted by the West Shore Chamber of Commerce represented a key opportunity for its attendees to improve their skills.
Allied Against Opioid Abuse assembled regional experts to answer employers’ most pressing questions.
There were many issues on the agenda because opioid misuse in the workplace is both widespread and dangerous.
The National Safety Council reports 23 percent of the U.S. workforce uses opioids non-medically.
And nearly 40 percent of opioid users admit to going to work under the influence, where many drive vehicles and operate heavy machinery. Fostering a drug-free workplace is, therefore, about safety, as well as employee health and well-being.
Among the recommendations offered during the training was to implement formal workplace policies, something more than eight in 10 employers say they have not yet done.
Having clear rules and expectations in writing communicates that the business takes opioid misuse seriously, but there are additional steps in developing a culture of open dialogue.
Manager training is essential. Supervisors need to know how to identify signs of opioid misuse, such as increased absenteeism, lack of concentration and errors on the job, and frequent, visible, hangover-like symptoms.
Businesses are advised to prepare in advance to work with employees suffering addiction, so they can point them toward recovery resources, support them through that process and reintegrate them when the time is right.
Often these activities can take place under an Employee Assistance Program. Health plans can also be valuable partners.
Employers are increasingly working to shape benefits packages to cover opioid alternatives, limit opioid prescriptions and offer treatment options.
Beyond the workplace, employees need to become informed health care consumers who can protect themselves and others from prescription opioid abuse.
The Allied Against Opioid Abuse website offers educational resources on the rights, risks and responsibilities of opioid medicines, which can be incorporated into any training program.
Business owners and human resources professionals recognize that the opioid epidemic is an “all-hands-on-deck” problem.
We’re enhancing our efforts to combat this crisis, and we’ll continue to do more to keep workplaces and employees safe.
George M. Book, Jr. is the president & CEO West Shore Chamber of Commerce.
This article was originally published in Penn Live.