Guest commentator: Jill Goldstone, Area Vice President of Innovation, Mid Atlantic Region, Gallagher Benefit Services @GallagherGlobal

How can employers respond to the opioid epidemic in the workplace?

No workplace is immune. 70% of employers report having had been impacted by opioids in the workplace, whether through absenteeism, use of prescription meds at the workplace, positive drug tests, or job performance issues.  Yet 56% of employers were not doing anything to address these issues.  How your company responds could have long lasting impact to your organizational health.

Most employers think of themselves as having a culture of compassion and believe they are truly focused on employee well being.  Yet the stigma associated with substance abuse still permeates in most workplaces and deters people from coming forward.  Statistics show that 8 out of 10 employees are afraid to ask for help out of fear of losing their jobs.  Yet research indicates there are better sustained recovery rates and outcomes with employer support and involvement.

In this tight labor market, it can be more expensive to recruit and replace than to provide support and a second chance to your employees that have been good performers.  Employees returning after treatment have been proven to be better workers, have fewer missed days, are less likely to be hospitalized, and show higher levels of productivity, according to the National Safety Council. The ROI is there to invest in strategies that address this epidemic in a transparent way.  It is good for your employees and good for your business.

To go about developing/refining your approach, consider these high level strategies:

  • Create an HR policy to give employees a second chance to succeed and a return to work plan once through treatment.
  • Provide a confidential resource to help members navigate to the appropriate level of support. Most standalone Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) will serve this purpose.
  • Offer best-in-class treatment including inpatient, intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment as well as Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT drugs + therapy) to ensure long-term success and minimize chances of relapse.
  • Ensure your pharmacy plans have appropriate protections in line with the CDC guidelines.
  • Educate employees about dangers, consequences, and health risks associated with prescription drug abuse.
  • Develop an organizational culture of well being with focus on stress management and resiliency.
  • Review current drug testing policy to confirm panel includes testing for commonly used opioids.
  • Identify community resources for opioid treatment services that can support employees and their family members.

Drug overdose deaths in Philadelphia this year is projected to be comparable to the 1,217 people who died in 2017, and it has become important for all Philadelphians to explore viable options to assist those in need of treatment. On Tuesday, February 5, 2019, the Chamber held Roadmap for Growth: Uniting Against the Opioid Crisis, bringing employers, city representatives, medical professionals, and community-based providers for a discussion about response plans for opioids in the workplace.  See more information on local research and policy.

Jill Goldstone is a member of the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth Action Team, a group of business, civic and community leaders committed to the development and execution of a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda to lift and improve Philadelphia’s economic and civic life.

Upcoming Program

Roadmap for Growth: Defining Growth for Philadelphia
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
5:00 – 7:00 p.m.