The Opioid Crisis And HR

Posted August 9, 2019 by Mary McGinley

For several years the opioid crisis has been taking its toll across the entire country. Perhaps the people of Kentucky know this reality better than any other state. Kentuckians have seen what opioids can do to families, communities, and companies.

According to an article appearing on the Insider Louisville website, a recent survey conducted by the Opioid Use Harm Prevention at the National Safety Council found that 75% of businesses participating in the study reported seeing the effects of the nation’s opioid crisis.

Kentucky employers have about 106,000 open jobs at this time. Some state experts estimate that addiction to opioids keeps approximately 135,000 Kentucky residents from getting to work on a daily basis. That can cost Kentucky businesses $32,000 annually, with more than $13,000 attributed to lost employee time.

Beth Davisson, executive director of the Workforce Center for Kentucky’s Chamber of Commerce, refers to the current opioid crisis in the state as the “human capital crisis of our time,” and advises, “We really need all hands on deck.”

How the Opioid Crisis is Affecting Businesses

While there has been a decrease in the number of deaths linked to opioids in recent years, employers see the toll that addiction has taken on their businesses. Most companies say that they are unprepared to deal with the problem.

Some of how opioids affect the bottom line for business is:

  • Compromised workplace safety and on the job accidents due to opioids

  • Difficulty in finding qualified job candidates that can pass drug screenings

  • Higher healthcare costs which are being passed to businesses and their employees.

  • An aging workforce that is more likely to be prescribed opioid medications after surgery or to deal with chronic pain.

  • Higher rates of employee absenteeism by both those with an addiction and the loved ones dealing with the crisis. This can result in increased productivity and absenteeism.

Dealing with the Crisis

The good news is that employers are finding ways to help mitigate some of the effects of the opioid crisis on their workers and their businesses. By taking educating employees on the dangers of opioids, and by taking an individualized approach within their HR departments, they can make it more likely for workers with a problem to come forward.

Rachael Cooper, senior program manager for the Opioid Use Harm Prevention at the National Safety Council, told the paper that, “If employees think they’re going to get fired, they’re not going to come forward.”

She suggests offering workers an amnesty day where workers can come forward and tell HR managers that they have a problem and need help. Employers and HR managers can then connect those workers with both internal and external resources and counseling to get them the help that they need.