Employers Have a Role to Play in Combating the Opioid Crisis

Employers Have a Role to Play in Combating the Opioid Crisis

The crisis of opioid addiction in the US is no longer something employers can afford to ignore. A growing body of research points to opioids as a significant factor in the hollowing out of the US workforce, particularly among prime-aged men. We’ve also heard many stories in recent years about employers having difficulty hiring for safety-sensitive roles in certain geographies because of the lack of qualified candidates able to pass a mandatory drug test.

So for most US businesses, opioid addiction is an issue that affects both their workforce and their talent pool, and employers who find ways to support workers affected by it are doing both economic and social good. Phil Albinus thinks through some of the ways employers can help at Employee Benefit News:

There could be an increase in benefits like telemedicine services, which would broaden the reach of medical treatment to rural areas where doctors are often in short supply. In addition, employers (if they have not already done so) may review service coverage for behavioral health and/or employee assistance program needs. An evaluation of the behavioral health portions of health insurance policies and EAP contracts will help to ensure employees are covered for abuse of prescription drugs. …

One option that employers may take is to partner with health care and workers’ compensation insurance providers. Working closely with these partners helps employers understand the extent of opioid use and the need for programs to prevent and manage opioid abuse. Employers could also create/update prescription drug policies and add prescription drug testing to illicit drug testing.

Last year, we highlighted a story about one company that has taken an innovative approach to addressing opioid use among their staff. The Indiana-based engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. tests employees for prescription opioids but has a flexible response to those who test positive, steering them away from safety-sensitive tasks and directing those who need it to treatment. Supervisors are also trained to spot signs of opioid abuse or addiction among their employees, to identify potential problems before they have serious consequences.