If you have visited the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative’s website in recent months, you may have noticed a small box in the lower right-hand corner of the home page. Minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day this countdown marked the nearing release date of “Opioids and the Workplace: An Employer Toolkit for Supporting Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery.” As part of the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE), the KHC spent the past year convening employers and key healthcare stakeholders alike to guide the development of a toolkit to provide recommendations and tools for employers to support their employees and their dependents in prevention, treatment, and recovery from opioid misuse and opioid use disorder (OUD).
As countdown ended on Thursday April 18, employers and other key healthcare stakeholders gathered at GE Appliance Park’s Monogram Hall for the release of the toolkit and to lay the foundation for next steps and implementation. The four-hour event, presented by the KHC Employer and Healthcare Purchaser Network, was full of presentations and discussions that explored the toolkit’s application and other relevant topics.
DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES BRING THE DISCUSSION FULL CIRCLE
To set the stage for the day, Patrick Kullman, an interventionist, shared his personal story of how an employer can be instrumental in supporting an employee facing substance and opioid related challenges. He was followed by addiction psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Clark, Addiction Crisis Solutions, who presented on facts and debunked myths surrounding opioids, addiction, and what it looks like in the workplace.
With the employee perspective at the forefront of the discussion and the record set straight on the chronic disease of addiction, a panel, moderated by Tiffany Cardwell, Mountjoy Chilton Medley, gave context to the challenges employers face in this area and opportunities for improvements. As employers and early adopters of strategies to address opioid misuse, Dr. Diana Han, GE Appliances, a Haier company, and Amanda Elder, LG&E and KU, highlighted their experiences and paths forward in adapting their data analytics and workplace policies to best support their employees and their dependents, as well as their business. Eric Bailly, Anthem, explored the health plan’s role as an employer partner for determining and provider optimal benefit design. Cynthia Doll, Fisher & Phillips, LLP, addressed many of the legalities that employers may need to consider. Highlights of the conversation included the available of Narcan in the workplace, workplace accommodations for employees on Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), the identification and utilization of high-quality evidence-based treatment, and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA).
As the lead author of “Opioids in the Workplace,” I presented on the toolkit itself, exploring what exactly employers can expect to learn from it and explaining how it can be used.
Dr. Brittney Allen and Dr. Katie Marks from the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE) closed out the day of by highlighting available community resources for people facing opioid related challenges, including Find Help Now KY and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
EMPLOYERS TO DRIVE CONTINUED WORK
Although the countdown is now at zero, the work is certainly not over. In the upcoming year, the KHC will continue to improve this toolkit based on industry advancements and employers’ needs and feedback. At the roundtable, attendees were offered a chance to communicate their needs and give input on the potential direction of the toolkit. Three key questions were presented:
- The business community has an active role in supporting the health and well-being of their employees. What should be their primary role in addressing the opioid crisis?
- What is your biggest personal obstacle in acknowledging substance use in your workplace?
- What tools can help you overcome this obstacle?
A major theme of this discussion was employers’ role in addressing stigma and creating awareness among employees not only about opioid related risks and addiction, but about what their employer can do to support them. Challenges to fulfilling this role included communication among different parts of the workplace chain of command, lack of understanding around confidentiality, and community culture’s that lacked empathy. Tools to overcome these challenges aligned closely with what the toolkit already offers, but also called for increased interconnectedness and partnership among employers, employees, and community supports.
To continue this conversation, the KHC will be convening a cohort of employers to discuss the implementation of the recommendations presented in the toolkit. Additionally, the KHC will be taking an increased focus on how employers can play a role in chronic pain management – a prominent factor in the development of the opioid crisis. If you are an employer interested in getting involved with this cohort, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The KHC will also be offering a complementary webinar on May 15 from 12pm to 1pm to review the employer toolkit. The toolkit and registration for the webinar can be found here.
We know employers play an important role in driving health of their employees and their families. By continuing to engage and invest in their specific role of supporting them through opioid related challenges, employers will be best positioned to achieve optimal health and workplace outcomes.