Workplace in Crisis | Opioid Epidemic | Rea CPA

Workforce In Crisis: The Opioid Epidemic And Its Impact On The American Workforce

How Businesses Can Fight Back Against The Opioid Crisis

Opioid Crisis | Employees On Drugs | Ohio CPA Firm
As the epidemic continues to grow, so does its impact on our loved ones, our communities and our economy – particularly our workforce. Read on to learn three common questions employers are asking as a
result of the opioid epidemic, and how we might work to strengthen a workforce
in crisis.

You finally found the perfect fit for that open position you’ve been trying to fill for months. Walter is not only qualified for the job, he’s personable, is involved in the community and is well regarded in your industry. But as you’re wrapping up the interview, Walter says, “By the way, there’s something you should know …”

He tells you he was prescribed a pain reliever after back surgery, and long term use has unfortunately turned into an opioid addiction. Every day is a struggle, but he’s receiving treatment. A drug test confirms that he isn’t currently using.

What do you do? Do you move on to another candidate, or do you accept the fact that everyone has a past and offer Walter a fresh start? After all, if it can happen to Walter, couldn’t it happen to any of us?

Read Also: Making Great Hires

This is a predicament many business owners have recently faced. And if the opioid crisis continues at its current rate, chances are, you may find yourself in this very situation before you know it.

In 2016, 11.5 million people misused prescription opioids and more than two million of them are considered to have an opioid use disorder. Tragically, opioid misuse resulted in the overdose deaths of 42,249 people* — that’s 116 each day.

As the epidemic continues to grow, so does its impact on our loved ones, our communities and our economy – particularly our workforce.

This article examines three common questions employers are asking as a result of the opioid epidemic, and how we might work to strengthen a workforce in crisis.

How does the opioid epidemic affect employers?

  • More applicants for both white- and blue-collar roles are unable to pass pre-employment drug screenings.
  • There’s a decrease in worker productivity and an increase in absenteeism and employee turnover among opioid drug users. Drugs in the workplace results in $200 billion in lost productivity annually.**
  • Workplace accidents and safety issues are on the rise. Employees under the influence of opioids are more prone to accidents and other safety concerns.
  • Healthcare costs for the employer are on the rise due to addiction treatment and services. Claims charged to insurance companies from 2011 to 2015 to treat opioid dependence or abuse grew from $72 million to $722 million.***

How can I ensure my business complies with workforce regulations and best practices?

  • Establish written drug-free workplace and substance abuse policies and share them with all employees. Policies should clearly outline expectations and consequences for alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Educate employees about the resources that are available to help with substance abuse issues. Your insurance provider may offer an employee assistance program.
  • Brush up on the Drug-Free Workplace Act. If your company does more than $100,000 of business with the federal government or obtains federal grants in any amount, you’re required to comply with the Drug-Free Workplace Act. Minimally, you must have a drug awareness program. The act also requires you to:
    • Notify employees that it is unlawful to manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess or use a controlled substance and that such action is prohibited in the workplace. Your statement must also advise employees that violations will have consequences.
    • Require employees to notify you of any criminal drug convictions. You must then notify the federal government of violations.
    • Verify to the federal government that your organization has complied with the law.

Why should I consider hiring a recovering addict?

  • You may consider hiring a recovering addict to ensure you’re not illegally discriminating in your hiring processes. While current illegal drug users aren’t protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, recovering addicts are protected from discrimination on the basis of past drug addiction. Of course, drug tests will need to verify that the prospective employee is not currently illegally using drugs.
  • By providing gainful employment to recovering addicts, you’ll help them overcome their addiction and gain control over their lives. Employed recovering addicts will be able to contribute to society, provide for their families and are less likely to relapse. While a history of opioid use may have been a deal breaker in the past, today, the problem is so widespread that there’s a good chance it will eventually seep into your hiring pool. America’s opioid crisis affects millions. Consider what steps you can take, as an employer and a concerned citizen, to help be part of the solution.

By Renee West, SHRM-SCP, PHR (New Philadelphia office)

*According the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, administered by the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics.
**According to retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
***According to a 2016 FAIR Health Study The Impact of the Opioid Crisis on the Healthcare System: A Study of Privately Billed Services.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of The Rea Report, Rea & Associates’ quarterly print publication. Click here to read the publication or click here to subscribe to The Rea Report.