Roundtable held to discuss opioid crisis, impact on workforce

JACKSON, Tenn. — The opioid crisis in Tennessee has affected every aspect of society. One of the less obvious is the impact on the workforce.

“The University of Tennessee estimates that there’s about a $2 billion impact to the opioid crisis,” said Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Bradley Jackson.

“If you’re looking to hire a president at a company and pay him $300,000 and if you’re looking to hire someone for a minimum wage job, opioids has affected every single piece of our workforce,” said Jackson Chamber President and CEO Kyle Spurgeon.

In order to combat the issue, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce is hosting events aimed at employers across the state.

“This event is to really educate our business leaders on how they can play a role in prevention, play a role in treatment, play a role in recovery,” said Tennessee Department of Mental Health deputy commissioner Matt Yancey.

Business owners and managers who think an employee might be suffering from opioid addiction have state-sponsored resources available.

“The chamber, we’ve developed a toolkit that is comprehensive that any employer can go to and look at to find the steps they need to take to help their employees,” Jackson said.

The opioid toolkit covers everything from insurance options, to manager assistance, to detecting if an employee is suffering from addiction.

There’s even a federal bonding program that can protect employers from potential losses if they hire an employee with a history of addiction.

If you want to talk to someone with the state about your options, call Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789.

That hotline is dedicated to handing out specific information.

“Employers want to help. Often, what we hear is they don’t know the first step, and that’s identifying it, and that’s also knowing what resources are out there,” Jackson said.

Speakers for the roundtable included mental health advocates and substance abuse experts.

If you’d like more information on the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s Opioid Toolkit, go to their website.

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