NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — To remain competitive, reduce liability and offer support, business owners and employers need to learn how to respond to the opioid crisis in Tennessee.
Navigating through the issue was the focus of a two-hour session providing resources and knowledge to dozens of employers across the mid-state. Drug addiction is affecting the workforce through lost wages, lost productivity, loss of jobs and safety incidents.
"Drug addiction impacts Tennessee's economy about 2 billion dollars," Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Bradley Jackson told NewsChannel 5. "Tennessee's workforce participation rate is lower compared to surrounding states which probably equates to about a 100,000 people across the state out of the workforce who should be in it."
Jackson, in partnership with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and Williamson, Inc., held the event because often times, employers don't know where to turn to or know how to help when employees show signs of opioid abuse.
To promote a health workplace environment and keep employees, developing close relationships is key. The session taught how having a plan of action to pick up on signs and have places and resources immediately available can make a big difference.
"There's great people everywhere and you don't know what any one person is going through in their life, so anything we can do to support them and get them on our team it's worth our time," A.Ray Hospitality COO Tom Perry said.
Perry brought eight of his team leaders to the event to learn how to become part of the solution. He knows being in the hospitality industry, there's always people with problems that aren't always known.
Paul Trivette of Pathway Recovery said there needs to be more training to de-stigmatize addiction. He suggested how there needs to be a clear set policy on drug testing and depending on the outcome, have an opportunity to provide help if someone fails.
Jason Pritchard of Ballad Health joins other members who encourage companies to take a chance on people in recovery. Pritchard said the individual tends to have a driving motivation to be successful and want to prove to themselves that addiction is not going to define their lives. He added they are more successful because they have more to prove.
Pamela Sessions of Renewal House said employers need to take a critical look at hiring practices and seeing people in a place of no judgment.
"It's an opportunity to change the trajectory," Sessions said. "It's just great for the community, it's great for the person's self-esteem, and they're very good workers."
Other suggestions include having a certified peer recovery specialist or some type of peer service provider.
An online opioid toolkit is established for reference. To learn more, click on this link.