Kentucky Employers Set to Welcome New Opioid Response Program for Businesses

JourneyPure Staff

July 19, 2019

With Kentucky being one of the top five states for fatal opioid overdoses in the country, it should come as no surprise that some of the newest, groundbreaking initiatives to stop opioid addiction are coming from this state. One of those initiatives is the Opioid Response Program for Business, which is being led by the CEO of Aetna Better Health of Kentucky, Johnathan Copley.

Copley, who is chairing a group of business representatives in the development and enactment of the Opioid Response Program for Business, states that business owners cannot “sit idle in the face of this epidemic,” but instead be an “active part of the solution to recover our citizens and our workforce.” The program will focus on eliminating the stigma surrounding the disease of addiction and making employers comfortable in their roles in prevention, treatment, and recovery in the workplace

There is currently no other program in the country like the Opioid Response Program for Business, however, it is promising that it is being put forth in one of the most opioid-riddled states in the nation. Kentucky saw 1,160 opioid overdoses in 2017 alone, which is more than the amount of people in the state who died in car accidents or were murdered in that year combined. In fact, the opioid overdose death rate shakes out to approximately 27.9 deaths per every 100,000 Kentuckians. In relation to the workforce specifically, studies have shown a direct connection between increasing opioid prescriptions and unemployment rates. It is reported that roughly 50 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 and who are not part of the nation’s workforce consume painkillers on a daily basis.  

The Opioid Epidemic’s Lateral Effects on Inmates and Taxpayers

With the opioid epidemic placing a financial strain on businesses throughout Kentucky, it is also wearing out the wallets of Kentuckians, as jails and prisons in the area are being inundated with men and women found guilty of drug-related crimes. The more people who become incarcerated only add to the taxes that the people of Kentucky have to deduct from their paychecks. Currently, the cost for keeping an inmate incarcerated in Kentucky for one year is $18,406. Rounding out to around $82 million per year to fund the needs of the inmates, those Kentuckians who are not addicted to opioids and/or who are in recovery are continuing to work only to put more of their money back into this seemingly uncontrollable epidemic.

Exactly How Can the Opioid Response Program for Businesses Help?

Trying to stop the opioid epidemic is something that the people of Kentucky (and the rest of the nation) want to do, however, it is not something that just one action can cure. Instead, it takes several different approaches, initiatives, and efforts to bring about change when it comes to this particular crisis. The Opioid Response Program for Business will not stop the opioid epidemic on its own; however, it is not designed to do so. It has been developed to target businesses in the state who can begin to play their role in combating the opioid crisis. 

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which is leading the way on the development of this program alongside of Aetna Better Health of Kentucky and the state cabinets for Health and Family Services and Justice and Public Safety, is focused on getting the state to adopt a need-for-treatment approach to the opioid epidemic rather than incarceration. Some of the recommendations the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has made include the following:

  • Making possession of drugs like opioids a misdemeanor to prevent loading up jails and prisons with more people
  • Pushing for state support for proper and effective substance use disorder treatment
  • Continuing work to ensure that the opioid-reversal drug Narcan is easily accessible and available throughout the state
  • Establishing needle exchange programs 
  • Continuing to encourage the constant use of mandatory prescription programs
  • Working with local community and business professionals to develop further solutions
  • Supporting employers and their efforts in hiring people living in recovery

Opioid Addiction, Unemployment, and Legal Troubles

Generally speaking, people who struggle with all types of different substance use disorders will experience some level of consequences related to their use. When addicts and alcoholics are fully in their addiction, they can easily begin to do things that they never would have done before. Instead of getting up and going to work every single day, someone who is dependent on a mind-altering substance is more likely to call in sick or skip work altogether. This is extremely common in opioid users, especially because the abuse of opioids can lead to drowsiness, lethargy, and symptoms of depression, making it harder for users to get the motivation to go to work. Unfortunately, the longer that an opioid user puts his or her addiction before work, the more likely he or she is to be demoted or fired. For many people, losing their job is one of the first major consequences of their opioid addiction.

Once someone becomes unemployed, finances can get tight very quickly. It becomes easier to engage in behaviors such as stealing, dealing, or performing sexual favors in exchange for cash to support one’s habit. Unfortunately, each one of those behaviors can lead to significant fines and long-term imprisonment, which can completely alter the course of one’s life. 

When more people get on board to help those who are struggling with an opioid addiction, the more that their communities will succeed, which is what the Opioid Response Program for Businesses is striving to accomplish. By focusing on those in the workforce who are addicted to opioids, employers can not only get their everyday job done, but also help to erase the stigma of addiction and put into motion positive action that will help rebuild their workforce, and in turn, their communities.

Get the Help You Deserve Today

If you or a loved one are in Kentucky and struggling with addiction, JourneyPure’s Lexington intensive outpatient program can help. Our experienced staff use a variety of therapy and evidence-based treatments so that you can recover not only from addiction but from the underlying issues as well. Call us today for a private consultation to learn more about your treatment options.