In February 2018, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Wellness Council of Indiana announced the Indiana Workforce Recovery initiative, a strategic partnership with Gov. Eric Holcomb and his administration to combat the opioid epidemic.
The mission of the initiative is to empower the business community to play a lead role by educating and guiding employers through the steps they can take to help their workers.
The effects of substance misuse and substance use disorder on Hoosiers, their families and communities are indisputable and devastating. In 2016 alone, nearly 500 Hoosiers died of an opioid overdose, according to data released by the Indiana State Department of Health. Meanwhile, the Indiana University Kelley School of Business says opioid misuse has a staggering $1.5 billion direct impact on the state’s annual economy, and identifies 58% of those suffering from substance use disorder as being employed.
“Our goal is to help educate employers on best practices and ultimately, be able to identify a worker in trouble. Employers need to be in a position to proactively respond to the opioid crisis versus reacting when an employee overdoses in the bathroom or parking lot.” – Jennifer Pferrer, executive director, Wellness Council of Indiana
“No question the opioid crisis has infiltrated the business community. There are employees unable to be as productive on the job, in need of extra medical care and increasingly absent from work. It even impacts the hiring process: Qualified applicants may not pass a drug test.” – Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO, Indiana Chamber
- Identify, evaluate and disseminate best practices in the workplace that support prevention, early identification, treatment and recovery
- Educate employers and destigmatize the opioid crisis through increased awareness
- Advocate for change in policy or statute to support business in its action to create and maintain a healthy workforce
Actions Employers Can Take Today
The Wellness Council of Indiana recommends employers implement the following actions to address opioid misuse in the workplace. A comprehensive approach includes efforts to improve awareness, update company policies and offer support. Once established, these changes should result in reduced health care costs, turnover and employee absences; improved workplace culture, morale and wellness; and increased productivity and service measurements.
Review and update your company policy on prescription drug use in the workplace. Many employers include drug screens for illegal drugs and have existing policies for illegal drug use, but few have policies to include prescription drug use at work or return to work policies. Identify what a drug free workplace means for your organization.
- National Safety Council Employer Toolkit
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Drug Free Workplace Toolkit
- What insurance should cover related to mental health and Parity Violations
Offer employee education to raise awareness about opioid use and misuse. Destigmatizing substance use disorders through education can encourage those in need to seek treatment. Provide employees resources for prescription drug take-back programs, alternative options for pain medication and online resources. Communicate new policies on prescription drug use in the workplace.
- Bitter Pill.IN.gov for prescription take back locator
- Walgreens Pharmacy for takeback information
- Know the O Facts campaign for general awareness of substance use disorder
Review hiring and retention practices to accommodate workforce needs. Update your screening process to include opioids. Consider return to work programs to allow potential hires to join your organization upon successful completion of a substance use disorder treatment program. Include substance use disorder treatment in your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).