Kentucky Chamber Leads Discussion Highlighting Link Between Opioid Use and Low Workforce Participation

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Today, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center convened four other state chambers to discuss the impact of opioid use on our nation’s workforce. Today’s discussion will serve as a catalyst to produce recommendations and solutions for both government and private industry to pursue in 2018. Today’s roundtable discussion is expected to lead to a broader effort by the five chambers to engage their members, non-profit organizations and public officials to work together on strategies to combat the problem. 

“It is no secret that opioid abuse is a major challenge facing every American community, and Kentucky is one of the states hit hardest,” said Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson. “Not only is the opioid crisis taking lives—more than 1,400 last year in Kentucky alone—it’s also impacting workforce participation and hindering our ability to attract investment, jobs and economic growth. But, we know the Commonwealth is not alone, and we are proud to lead this collaborative effort between private industry and the public sector to develop impactful solutions.”

The roundtable was co-hosted by Alkermes, the manufacturer of VIVITROL—one of three FDA-approved medications to reduce opioid dependence.

“The opioid crisis is a daunting challenge, but Alkermes is committed to being part of the solution by encouraging access to medication-assisted treatment for all patients struggling with opioid addiction,” said Alkermes Chairman and CEO Richard Pops. “We are proud to join the Kentucky Chamber and others in this noble effort to help more individuals return to productive, healthy lives, and ultimately, reenter the workforce.”

The roundtable, which attracted more than 60 participants from five different states, featured two panel discussions. The first provided an opportunity for leaders from regional employers, including Braidy Industries and Dorman Products, to discuss how opioid abuse affects their workforce and business. Representatives from other state chambers participated in the roundtable discussion as well, including Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and West Virgina. 

Attendees also heard from government officials, including Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy and Jim McClleland, Drug Czar for the State of Indiana, on how public policy can shift the trajectory of the opioid crisis, get more people back to work, and improve outcomes for all stakeholders.

“For years, Kentucky has struggled with declining workforce participation rates tied to increasing incidences of opioid abuse and addiction,” said Kentucky Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts. “As people leave the workforce, they often end up drawing on public assistance, increasing costs for state systems and creating barriers to attract new investment. Public policy that helps people access the treatment they need to recover and get back to work will help put an end to this negative feedback loop.”

“The opioid crisis is a complex and multifaceted problem, and there is no easy solution. However, the Kentucky Chamber looks forward to continuing this much-needed dialogue,” added Adkisson. “We remain committed to developing innovative solutions to the challenges Kentucky businesses face, and know that collaborative efforts like this event are critical to our success.”

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