THE OPIOID CRISIS IN CONNECTICUT: ARE EMPLOYERS RESPONDING EFFECTIVELY?

According to a recent New York Times article, many employers are struggling to respond to the current opioid epidemic. (The September 21, 2018 article, authored by Jenny Gold, is entitled “Workers Overdose on the Job, and Employers Struggle to Respond.”  Find it here.)

The article indicates that a stunning 70 percent of employers reported that their businesses had been affected by prescription drug abuse, including absenteeism, positive drug tests, injuries, accidents and overdoses, according to a 2017 survey by the National Safety Council, a research and advocacy organization. The article also indicates that workplace overdose deaths have been increasing 25 percent or more a year since 2010.  Despite the growing problem, the article questions whether many employers are turning a blind eye to addiction, or are ill-equipped or unwilling to confront a complicated issue that they do not know how to address.

David Chase, co-founder of Health Rosetta, a company that certifies employer health benefits, and author of “The Opioid Crisis Wake-Up Call,” put it more bluntly: “Employers have been asleep at the wheel,” and some companies have become “key, unwitting enablers.”

Are Connecticut employers effectively responding to the opioid epidemic? Are some employers unwilling to acknowledge drug use at their businesses?  Are some employers simply at a loss as to how to confront this issue?

These questions, among others, will be confronted at the upcoming Connecticut Opioid Summit, hosted by Quinnipiac University, including its Schools of Law, Medicine, Nursing, Education, and Health Sciences, in association with the Opioid Task Force of the Connecticut Bar Association, and the Connecticut Bar Foundation James W. Cooper Fellows. The summit is entitled “Building Bridges and Finding Answers: the Opioid Crisis in Connecticut.”  The summit will have two distinct components:  a launch day and a reporting day.  The launch day will occur on November 9, 2018 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The reporting day will be held on Friday, June 7, 2019. Both sessions will be held at the Quinnipiac School of Law Ceremonial Courtroom, 370 Basset Road, North Haven.

The purpose of the summit is to address the opioid crisis in Connecticut, share information, and discuss strategies to deal with this epidemic. The summit will convene approximately 120 representatives from various fields and individuals who have experience with opioid use and addiction through their work, treatment and relationships with people with opioid addiction and in recovery.  The summit will explore where things currently stand, identify programs that are working and could be shared, and determine what needs to be done and what additional information or resources would assist with these endeavors. The summit’s primary objectives are to share ideas, to generate policy recommendations, and to identify programs to help and support those afflicted by opioid addiction, including their families, towns, schools, communities, employers and treaters.

One of the unique aspects of the summit is that following the plenary programs on launch day, participants will join one of ten working groups to discuss issues, generate suggestions and ideas, and begin plans to meet between November and June to further their work. Each working group will have an assigned Working Group Leader who will facilitate the discussions and ensure that suggestions, ideas, and learning experiences are documents so that they can be shared and circulated on the reporting day.  The groups include:

  1. Employers/Business
  2. Family Support
  3. Medical Provider Education
  4. First Responders
  5. Opioids and Kids/Families
  6. Opioid Education for the Public
  7. Law Enforcement and Legal
  8. People in Recovery and Treaters/Rehab
  9. Towns/Cities/Municipal/Regional Groups
  10. Opioid and Schools: Pre-school-12 and their Families

A description of each of these working groups can be found here.

On the reporting day, June 7, 2019, each group will present their findings and ideas, and we will collectively create a plan to move those ideas forward. It is expected that each group will have held one or more meetings between launch day and reporting day, on the group’s own timetable, in order to fully explore its topic and learn from one another.

Yours truly will be the Working Group Leader responsible for the Employers/Business Working Group. If you are interested in the summit, or in participating in the Employers/Business Working Group, please contact Liz Drummond at the Connecticut Bar Foundation at (860) 722-2494 or e-mail ctbf@cbf-1.org.

Stay tuned for future blog posts on the Opioid Summit, and to stay abreast of what employers are doing, or should be doing, to confront this critical issue impacting the workplace.