In 2017, 14 people in Ohio died each day from a drug overdose — and opioids were the main driver of those deaths. Our businesses are not exempt from the impact of this terrible plight. In fact, the majority of people who use illicit drugs, including the non-medical use of prescription medications, are employed.
More than ever, we’re challenged to find a ready, drug-free workforce, and to react to existing employees who are dealing with drug-related issues of their own or someone they care about.
We know businesses are being impacted because we’re hearing from them. The opioid epidemic has turned into a workforce and workplace issue. Employers can’t find employees who can pass drug tests. Employers have employees who are dealing with their own or a family member’s addiction. Employers want to do something, but have no idea where to begin.
Upon a recommendation from our board, we convened a task force to explore ways to help Ohio’s employers respond to the opioid problem as it relates to their workplaces. After meeting and listening to speakers on the front line, it was evident Ohio’s business community needed help.
With support from Ohio Chamber member companies Working Partners and Anthem BlueCross/BlueShield, we acted on the key recommendation to arm employers with a free toolkit of resources to help prevent and manage the problem. Two of the elements of the developing toolkit are online courses, available at ohiochamber.com/opioid-toolkit.
Dose of Reality for Employers: a toolkit to help mitigate the risks associated with Ohio’s opioid crisis is approximately 60 minutes long, with downloadable resources. It can be viewed at once or in modules. It includes lessons about the impact of the substances, legal and operational issues an employer must consider, best practice drug-free workplace guidance including how, when and why to drug test, and how to handle a situation if an employee confesses or is discovered misusing substances. There are also downloadable handouts to use within your company.
Dose of Reality for Employees: being a safe and critical consumer of prescription (Rx) drugs (funded by the Cardinal Health Foundation) addresses the dangers of misusing prescription drugs. It provides a simple five-step plan with downloadable reference pages employees can use to talk to their medical practitioner and pharmacist about the drugs they’re taking, possible conflicts with other drugs, alternatives for specific medicines, how to check whether there is a less expensive or safer generic version of the drug, how to properly dispose of medications and more.
We encourage you and your employees to use these resources and watch for more to come. Please share it with other business owners. The workplace is a powerful place to both prevent and intervene in the harmful use of substances. It is also the ideal environment to arm adults with information and strategies to help keep their children, or those they influence, drug-free.
With these tools, operating a comprehensive drug-free workplace program can increase safety, decrease liability, protect an organization’s reputation and profitability, and contribute to building an economically thriving and healthy Ohio.
Julie Wagner Feasel is the vice president of Communications at Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio’s largest and most diverse statewide business advocacy group, has been a consistent voice for business since 1893.