Blog post by Christine Ross
Christine Ross, the president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, has 20 years of leadership experience in the business community. She is a visionary coalition builder guiding the Maryland Chamber’s efforts to improve competitiveness, attract and retain talent, grow jobs, engage the community and provide legislative advocacy.
Yesterday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation made another stop on its “Sharing Solutions” tour—a national grassroots tour to the parts of our country that have been hit the hardest by the opioid crisis.
After stops in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Carolina, and Massachusetts, the tour stopped in Frederick, Maryland. Sadly, Maryland ranks in the top 5 states for opioid-related overdose death rates, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
On a national level, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the opioid crisis costs us an estimated $504 billion a year. It affects families, the health care system, and, of course, workplaces, which experience the negative effects of worker absenteeism brought on by substance use disorders and chronic pain. For example, the National Association of Home Builders recognizes that those who work in the construction industry are much more likely to become addicted to opioids, like prescription painkillers, than are workers in the general population, and has joined the fight against the epidemic.
Sharing Solutions was created by the U.S. Chamber Foundation to provide vital resources for employees who may be struggling with addiction, and employers who want to change their business practices to better support employees in recovery; invest in employee education and other prevention efforts; or review (and enhance) their employee health benefits, assistance and wellness programs, and return-to-work policies.
I was honored to speak at yesterday’s event, which also featured panel discussions with experts who have made the battle against addiction their life’s work, including Dr. Gregory Khan-Arthur, a pain management specialist at Kaiser Permanente, and John Hindman, Senior International and Public Affairs Advisor at Leidos. John lost his 30-year-old son to a drug overdose in 2016. By sharing his own story of personal tragedy with the CEO of Leidos, John was able to spearhead the Leidos CEO pledge against opioid abuse. “I’m humbled, honored, and inspired by what Leidos is doing,” John said. We need other businesses to follow Leidos’ lead and do their part to reduce the stigma of addiction, show compassion to employees who are struggling with addiction, and simply keep the dialogue on the disease of addiction open.
Jay Hessler of the Frederick County Health Department concluded the event with a demonstration on how to use Narcan (naloxone) to reverse an opioid overdose. As Jay pointed out, many of us know how to perform CPR, but how many of us know how to administer Narcan? It’s a question worth asking.
As I left the event, I thought of the eloquent message Dr. Khan-Arthur delivered to the audience. He said, “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connectedness.” It’s a lesson we must bring with us into the workplace. The more businesses that are willing to connect with their employees, the closer we will get to ending this epidemic.
To read Roger Krone’s guest blog with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, click here.