Print Friendly and PDF

Opioids in the Workplace Are Everyone’s Problem

By Kevin Bull

Opioids are a workplace problem, not a socioeconomic problem. Two-thirds of those abusing opioids in Michigan are employed, according to Jenny Love, Southeast Region health management director for Gallagher Benefit Services.

The best way to combat the problem is through awareness and education according to business and health care leaders, who discussed Wednesday how the opioid epidemic is affecting Michigan. The panel, “Opioids in the Workplace: Impacting Michigan,” looked deep into the role business can play to mitigate abuse during the first day of the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference.

“No one is immune to this issue,” said Bud Denker, president of Penske Corp. “If you think you are, your head is stuck in the sand, no matter how big of a company you are.”

Denker noted that the mindset around opioid abuse is that they are prescribed by a doctor, so they must be OK, whereas heroin has a reputation of being “dirty.” But data shows 19,000 people died of heroin overdoses and 42,000 died from opioid misuse last year.

“What we can do is be business partners with physicians and with the community,” said Dan Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “We have so much information. You can look at trends. We need to regard this issue as an epidemic. Seventy percent of the workforce is impacted.”

On June 1, a new law in Michigan will require doctors to talk to patients about the risks of taking opioids before writing prescriptions for the drugs. Patients will also need to sign a consent form.

Key Takeaways:

  • Michigan ranks 10th among states for opioid prescriptions and 18th for opioid-related deaths.
  • More people are coming forward with opioid addiction and employers need to be ready. Pathways should be established for employees to seek help within organizations.
  • Lawsuits brought by Oakland and Wayne counties against drug manufacturers and distributors alleging deceptive marketing and sale of opioids are helping raise awareness of abuse.
  • It only takes three to five days to develop a dependency on opioids.
  • Businesses need to instill a culture of trust within their organization.
  • Overall awareness about opioid abuse is increasing in the medical profession and among insurers; doctor shopping will be less of a problem in two to four years because of licensing requirements.

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio as part of a collaborative partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber for the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference.