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New Opioid Initiative Provides Free Resources for Arkansas Employers


by Tyler Hale

During the 2019 Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/AIA annual meeting, officials unveiled a new initiative targeting the opioid crisis that is designed to help Arkansas employers.

The new initiative, Together Arkansas, is a series of free resources available to employers throughout the state that is aimed at preparing companies to “prepare, prevent and respond” to the ongoing opioid epidemic. The Arkansas State Chamber developed the program in collaboration with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC).

This initiative was developed specifically in response to the opioid epidemic’s impact on businesses, according to Chamber officials.

A 2018 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that 10.3 million people in the United States misused opioids. Of that total, 9.9 million people (or 97.1 percent) were estimated to have misused opioid pain relievers. There were also 506,000 individuals believe to have abused pain relievers and used heroin, while 302,000 people are estimated to have used solely heroin as an opioid.

While the number of people misusing opioids has fallen from highs in 2015, the number still totals in the millions. Opioid abuse is having an impact on businesses in the United States and Arkansas, experts say.

According to the National Safety Council, 75 percent of U.S. employers reported having been directly impacted by opioids. However, only 17 percent of these employers felt prepared to deal with the issue, according to a NFC survey.  In the survey, 86 percent of the polled employers said that opioids can impair job performance, but only 60 percent had policies and resources to deal with opioid misuse.

Arkansas State Chamber/AIA President and CEO Randy Zook says that the opioid crisis is continuing to impact businesses throughout Arkansas.

“Opioid-use disorder is impacting Arkansas employers of every kind – from small operations to large corporations,” Zook says. “It is creating daily challenges for employers because it affects their greatest asset: their employees.”

Together Arkansas will provide an online course consisting of five modules that address legal and operational issues pertaining to opioids. This includes best practices for drug testing, as well as developing policies concerning opioids and drug use and how to respond to opioid misuse.

Each of the five modules are approximately 16 minutes long.

Module 1 addresses the impact of opioids in the workplace. Module 2 focuses on creating a “legally sound” drug-free workplace program, which offers employers tips on what they can and cannot do for their program. Module 3 is on creating policies that are appropriate for a given business. Module 4 explores the details and complexities of drug testing. Module 5 is also focused on legally sound workplace programs.

See the Together Arkansas modules here.

READ MORE: The Cost of Crisis: Battling Opioid Addiction in Arkansas

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