Opioid Crisis Rapidly Evolving into Workforce Issue
Declining workforce participation rates have quickly become a major challenge for the state’s businesses and employers, with Kentucky ranking 47th in the nation for workforce participation.
At a time when Kentucky is setting records for business investment, job vacancies are also reaching all-time highs. Drug abuse and addiction are driving forces behind the discrepancy, according to the Kentucky Chamber’s 2017 Workforce Participation Report.
Employers report that interested applicants are often unable to pass mandatory drug screens. Meanwhile, many other Kentuckians find themselves so deep in the clutches of addiction that work is no longer an option.
Opioid abuse is widely recognized as a public health crisis, but if left unaddressed, it could threaten Kentucky’s ability to retain and attract business investment. Kentuckians must have access to the treatments they need to overcome addiction, lead healthy lives, and ultimately, reenter the workforce.
This week, the Kentucky Chamber started sounding the alarm on the economic development implications of the opioid crisis with an opinion-editorial from our president and CEO Dave Adkisson in Louisville Business First. The piece highlights how opioid addiction is robbing the state of the healthy, productive workforce necessary to sustain and grow our economy.
At the same time, opioid abuse is adding to Kentucky’s budget issues as more workers leave their jobs, effectively reducing tax revenues for the state, and turn to public assistance—a fiscal “double-whammy.”
The Chamber also helped bring the issue before legislators at a roundtable with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Representative Addia Wuchner on Thursday.
During the event, which also included health care providers and addiction treatment specialists, Beth Davisson, executive director for the Chamber’s Workforce Center, spoke to the impending workforce consequences of the addiction crisis and its potential impact on economic growth.
As we look toward the 2018 legislative session, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce will continue to advocate on behalf of the business community and identify opportunities to partner with policymakers and community leaders to address opioid addiction and restore our workforce. Kentucky’s economic health depends on it.