Congressional Men’s Health Caucus Holds Briefing On Opioids and Men in The Work Place
WASHINGTON — Men's Health Network in collaboration with the Congressional Men's Health Caucus, held a briefing Wednesday to discuss the impact of the opioid crisis on men in the workplace “Opioids and Men in the Work Place: How Are Drugs Affecting Men and Employment?” The briefing was in partnership with the National Black Men's Health Network, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), Premier Inc., and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), co-chair of the Congressional Men’s Health Caucus, delivered remarks on issues facing employees and employers who have been confronted with opioid addiction in the workplace.
“The workforce is almost impossible to hire for. The biggest issue we have is actually people passing the drug tests,” Mullin said. “We’ve been treating more and more people, unfortunately, by prescription drugs.”
The briefing comes as new data released this spring shows the continued trend of opioid usage on working-age men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 44 percent of prime-age men not in the labor force acknowledged taking pain medication the previous day. Recent studies suggest that up to 20 percent of the steady decline in labor force participation among prime-age men, aged 25-54, may be attributed to opioid use.
“The opioid crisis continues to seep into the workplace affecting men’s ability to find employment or keep their jobs. This affects the stability of families and communities, as men are often times the providers in the family. There needs to be more ways for men to seek help and become reengaged in their communities,” said Ana Fadich, Vice President at Men’s Health Network.
Health experts from the National Black Men’s Health Network urged patience and understanding when dealing with individuals affected by addiction. Substances like opioids alter brain chemistry making addicted individuals chemically dependent on the drugs.
Individuals are often introduced to opioids through pain management prescriptions after a workplace injury, said Jean Bonhomme, MD, founder of the National Black Men’s Health Network.
“Addiction needs to be regarded as a brain disease not a moral failing,” Bonhomme said, pointing out that “93 percent of workplace deaths are men.”
“We’re actually dealing with addiction as a public health issue—that’s very encouraging,” said Andrew Sperling, Director, Legislative and Policy Advocacy at NAMI.
“As Congressman Mullin, an HVAC contractor and ACCA member, highlighted, HVAC contractors have a difficult time finding employees who can pass a drug test,” said Todd Washam, Director of industry and external relations at ACCA. “Working in the industry is also time sensitive and physically demanding, which creates opportunities for workplace injuries. In these circumstances, ACCA members tell us that one of the best ways to prevent injured employees from getting addicted to painkillers is to bring employees back to work on modified duties. Employees need to stick to a routine schedule and made to feel useful, instead of sitting at home focused on their injuries and pains.”
Still, policy experts from Premier Inc, said that more can be done on the federal level to loosen medical privacy laws allowing hospitals receiving patients with a history of addiction access to a patient’s entire medical record.
“We have to be mindful of patients,” said Duanne Pearson, Director of Federal Affairs at Premier Inc,. “If we’re not coordinating…[patients] are not going to get the help they need. It’s really putting a drain on resources.”
Men's Health Network (MHN) is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to reach men, boys, and their families where they live, work, play, and pray with health awareness messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation. Learn more about MHN atwww.menshealthnetwork.org and follow them on Twitter @MensHlthNetwork and Facebook at www.facebook.com/menshealthnetwork. For more information on MHN's ongoing Dialogue on Men's Health series, visit www.dialogueonmenshealth.com