By: Richard Ollis
Missouri is the latest state to file a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that sell and market opioid painkillers, alleging the companies created an addiction crisis by misrepresenting the risks and benefits of their drugs.
Widespread opioid addiction has pushed U.S. overdose rates to an all-time high — quadrupling since 1999. And Missouri’s opioid death rate is 1.6 times greater than the national average, plus another 30,000 opioid-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits in 2015 — a 200 percent increase over the last decade.
Missouri is the only state without any type of Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), an electronic database that tracks prescription drug filling/dispensing and discourages the most common practice associated with opioid abuse — “doctor shopping” (going from doctor to doctor to receive prescriptions for drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone).
Locally, the problem is also growing to an epidemic level, with Greene County opioid overdoses increasing from 8.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 31.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2015. The Springfield City Council Community Involvement Committee recently heard a recommendation from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and Springfield’s Healthy Living Alliance to implement a PDMP.
The Substance Use Cost Calculator, developed by the National Safety Council, allows you to calculate potential costs of lost time, turnover and health care based on industry, location and organization size. In one example, a 150-person construction firm could incur $57,387 in annual costs associated with substance abuse. The calculator and associated information can be found at www.nsc.org/drugsatwork.
For businesses, drug abuse is not just dollars and cents; it’s a problem that impacts employees, a valuable part of a company’s success. The face of addiction continues to change from the stereotypical junkie to the middle class with “good” jobs, living in “normal” neighborhoods.
Businesses can combat the opioid and other drug abuse by:
- Establishing clear, written policies on drug and alcohol abuse including specific rules, procedures and protocols. Drug testing can also be included — new hires, post-accident, reasonable suspicion or random. With human resources and legal counsel, carefully consider your company’s needs and your industry’s culture.
- Developing a wellness program that offers initiatives for prevention of substance abuse. This could be self-screenings, help lines, substance abuse counseling and education programs.
- Offering a robust Employee Assistance Program (EAP), offering access to counseling for employees and their families in a safe, private atmosphere. Normally, this benefit is confidential and offers a limited number of sessions at no cost to the employee, no jeopardy of job loss and no jeopardy regarding chance for promotion.
- Implement an employee and supervisor training program identifying danger signs, understanding privacy, and learning appropriate legal rights.
Drug abuse, specifically opioid abuse, continues to escalate. Understand the issue, develop strategies to address it and take a proactive approach so you can help stem the tide of this increasing epidemic.
Richard Ollis is CEO of Ollis/Akers/Arney, an employee-owned business consulting and insurance advisory firm. He also serves on City Council of Springfield.
This article appeared in the July 14, 2017 edition of The News-Leader and can be accessed online here.