Opioid Epidemic Response: Employer Toolkit
Substance use and substance use disorder affects employees, workplaces, families, and communities.
Employers have the opportunity to identify early signs and symptoms of a substance use disorder, and help connect employees to treatment and recovery supports. Substance use disorder impacts workplace safety, health care costs, productivity, absenteeism, and job performance. Not only are individual employees affected by substance use disorder, any employee may have a partner, child, or family member that is struggling with a substance use disorder. When employers respond to the opioid epidemic, it benefits the employee and the people that surround them. It is good for employees and good for business!
5 Steps Employers Can Take to be a Part of the Opioid Epidemic Response.
This toolkit was developed by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Business Partnership (MBP) in a public-private partnership. Use the five steps below to prevent and address substance use disorder within your workplace. Customize the toolkit materials to fit your needs. Listen to the Substance Use Prevention: It's Good for Business webinar for tips on how to use the toolkit and engage businesses.
1. Change the Conversation
Substance use disorder is a preventable and treatable illness.
- Watch and share this 2-minute video with your employees
- Calculate costs of opioid epidemic and cost savings of recovery.
- Post on social media about the video and addressing stigma (Word).
- Send this email about addressing stigma (Word).
Many of us are aware of the consequences and harms associated with substance use disorder. Substance use impacts work safety, health care costs, productivity, absenteeism, and job performance; there are many costs associated with substance use disorder. Did you know that there are cost savings associated with recovery? Recovery is good for business! Compared to the general population, people in recovery miss fewer days of work, have lower health care utilization, and stay at their jobs longer. (Source: Shatterproof Workplace Cost Calculator)
Like substance use disorder, mental illness is a medical condition. Mental illness disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. It is common. It is treatable. Mental illness stigma comes in many forms. Exclusion, silence, and labeling are just a few. Visit MakeItOK.org to learn more about how you can reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
2. Promote Safe Use, Storage and Disposal
People sometimes hold onto medications “just in case”. It is illegal and not safe to share prescription medications with anyone else.
- Explore health care coverage that supports a variety of pain management treatment options, such as cultural practices, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, exercise, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and occupational therapy.
- Send this email to educate employees (Word) about being active decision-makers in health care.
- Post on social media about safe disposal of medications and locations to do so in Minnesota (Word).
- Post this flyer in the workplace about medication drop boxes (Word).
- Hang this Your Life Matters (PDF) poster to provide information about reducing the harms associated with drug use, overdose prevention, and services offered at a Syringe Service Program (SSP).
- See the Minnesota Syringe Exchange Calendar for hours and locations of your nearest SSP.
- Find a safe drop location in Minnesota.
Opioids are intended to address pain, and have the potential for physical and psychological dependence. Opioids are particularly risky when taken for a longer period, at high doses, and when combined with other medications, drugs, or alcohol.
Opioids might be used for acute (up to 7 days) and terminal pain. The recommendation is to use the lowest dose (morphine milligram equivalent or MME) and duration (number of pills) that is clinically necessary. While opioids might be a part of a pain management strategy for an acute injury, the post-acute period (up to 45 days) is a critical timeframe when the body can become dependent and/or addicted to opioids. Research has shown that ibuprofen and acetaminophen are as effective in many cases for pain management.
Medicines in home cabinets are the second leading cause of accidental poisonings in both children and adults (Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency). Many people who have a substance use disorder, first used opioids from a family member or friend who shared prescription opioids with them. Store medications in their original containers, and in a place that children and visitors cannot easily access; locked medicine boxes or locked medicine cabinets are available. Sort through medications annually and dispose of outdated or unneeded medications.
3. Prepare for Overdose Emergencies
Naloxone is a medication that temporarily blocks the effects of an opioid during an opioid overdose emergency. Through the State Targeted Response (STR) Grants, three community-based organizations provide naloxone training, which include naloxone kits, free of charge. Schedule a training for your employees today:
- Steve Rummler HOPE Network 952-493-3937
- Rural AIDS Action Network 320-257-3036
- Valhalla/Meridian 651-925-8200
Ensure that clinical settings stock naloxone and/or co-prescribe naloxone. Refer to the Opioid Prescribing Guidelines to learn when co-prescribing is indicated.
Ensure that pharmacies (1) are a part of the naloxone protocol or comparable policy, (2) participate in syringe access, and (3) have a safe drop location that is posted on the statewide searchable database.
- Schedule a naloxone training for your employees and share this flyer (Word).
- Post on social media about preparing for opioid overdose emergencies (Word).
You can get naloxone from (1) your primary care provider, (2) a pharmacy that has adopted the Naloxone Protocol, and (3) community-based organizations. The Naloxone Protocol allows any pharmacy to dispense naloxone to anyone who is risk for, or knows someone who is at risk for, an opioid overdose. Naloxone is also used during an opioid emergency by EMS providers, law enforcement, hospitals, clinics, family members, friends, and Good Samaritans.
MDH Naloxone Videos
4. Make Help Accessible
Encourage employees to use their health insurance and/or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for mental or chemical health needs. For example:
- Tell your employees to call the back of their insurance card to inquire about resources and answers to questions related to benefits and coverage.
- Pull up the EAP website during a staff meeting.
- Have a supervisor tell a story about a EAP service they used.
- Have an EAP consultant attend a staff meeting annually to share available services and resources.
- Post on social media about recovery and accessing treatment for substance use disorder (Word).
There are effective treatments available for substance use disorder for employees and their family members. Look at mental and chemical health treatment availability in the Fast Tracker; search by location, treatment type, and preferences. The Fast Tracker is a Minnesota searchable database of mental and chemical health treatment availability. Individuals can search for treatment based on zip code, service type, or keyword (e.g. buprenorphine/suboxone, methadone, inpatient, outpatient, LGBTQ). It is important to reassure people that there are withdrawal management and effective treatments available. Recovery is possible.
5. Support Wellness
All employees, including those in recovery, can benefit from workplaces that focus on health and wellness. There are additional considerations to have a recovery-friendly workplace. Consider steps your company can take to promote policies that enhance wellness and self-care, support long-term recovery and aim to reduce stigma around drug use. Consider where there could be a more compassionate, informed approach when it comes to substance use disorder and hiring, discipline, retention, and firing of staff. Set time on the leadership team agenda to talk about policies that could support recovery.
- If your company hosts social events or gatherings, ensure there are alcohol and drug-free events.
- Consider promoting the use of sick days for wellness. Encourage employees to use sick days for medical, dental, mental and/or chemical health.
- Review wellness programs at a leadership team meeting.
- Host monthly brown bag discussions about health and wellness. Post this flyer to promote the brown bag lunch (Word).
- Post on social media about using sick days to support wellness (Word).
In a survey of 501 human resources decision-makers, 80% recognize that substance use disorder is impacting employees and their families, but 42% believe it is a moral failing, and 65% said it is a justifiable reason to fire someone (Source: National Employer Survey: Prescription Drugs and the US Workforce, National Safety Council).
When your agency is ready to engage in conversation around substance use disorder, in a way that doesn’t increase risk or stigma towards people in recovery and/or with a substance use disorder, you can host a listening session to learn from employees who are in recovery. Questions may include:
- What do you want (company) to know about your needs, as a person in recovery?
- How can (company) support you in your recovery?
- What do you wish everyone understood about addiction or the recovery process?
- Consider having an anonymous way that staff can submit ideas, for those that do not want to disclose their recovery health status.
Just as physical health is more than the absence of disease, including substance use disorder, positive mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. Learn more about mental wellness, and promoting mental well-being.
Across the country, companies are also rethinking their practices around drug testing job applicants. If a candidate passes the selection and interview process, but fails a drug test, some companies are giving applicants the option of undergoing a drug assessment with corresponding treatment and then returning to the applicant pool upon completion. Consider implementing recovery-friendly practices like this in your workplace.
Has your company taken steps that can be shared with others as part of a best practices platform? Please share your success stories with Kate Erickson at email@example.com or 651-201-5483 so other companies can learn from your approach.
- MDH Opioid Dashboard
- Minnesota Opioid Action Plan
- Minnesota Opioid Prescribing Guidelines
- Minnesota Poison Control
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
- Minnesota Business Partnership (MBP)
Please visit the Opioid Dashboard for more information on opioid overdose death, nonfatal overdose, use, misuse, substance use disorder, prescribing practices, supply, diversion, harm reduction, co-occurring conditions, and social determinants of health. For questions or feedback about the MBP/MDH Employer Toolkit, contact Kate Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-201-5483.