The Bottom Line: Kentucky’s response to opioid crisis noted at national Supreme Court event

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, left, and Aetna CEO Jon Copley.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — State court leaders from across the nation recently heard from Kentucky’s business community about innovative efforts to address the opioid epidemic.

Aetna Better Health of Kentucky CEO Jon Copley, who chairs the Kentucky Chamber Opioid Task Force, spoke at the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roundtable event held Nov. 21 in Washington, D.C.

He shared insights gleaned from Kentucky’s Opioid Response Program for Business and the important role employers play to help employees overcome opioid misuse and addiction.

The commonwealth is one of the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. And, as more people are driven from the workforce due to addiction, enrollment in public assistance programs rises, exacerbating state budgets already under pressure.

According to DEA data, nearly 2 billion prescriptions were supplied to Kentucky between 2006-12, amounting to 150 pills per adult, per year. For those who use excessively or improperly, Copley noted the impacts are touching every corner of the state, as well as Kentucky’s surrounding states.

“Addressing a challenge of this size and complexity requires collaboration among employers, business groups, health care providers and policymakers. Employers must be an active part of the solution to help our citizens and our workforce recover from addiction,” Copley stated.

The Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center is leading this work in partnership with the state cabinets for Health and Family Services and Justice & Public Safety as well as the biopharmaceutical company Alkermes and Aetna Better Health of Kentucky.

This program is working with employers to create solutions to address the opioid crisis focused on four areas:

  • Promoting Education and Prevention. Employers are exploring opportunities to educate workers and the communities they serve about the benefits and risks of pain care management and opioid misuse and addiction.
  • Helping Current Employees Seek Treatment. Identifying barriers preventing affected employees and their families from seeking treatment and encouraging them to pursue meaningful recovery.
  • Advocating for Treatment with an End Goal. Empowering health care providers with education about evidence-based, patient-centered treatment options for opioid dependence. Encouraging treatment settings where patients have access to the comprehensive services they need to recover and return to healthy, productive lives.
  • Encouraging Re-engagement in the Workforce. A return to work for Kentuckians battling this disease is an ultimate goal and the driving force behind this employer-driven effort to combat the opioid epidemic. Kentucky’s public-private partnership is coming together with common sense actions and policies that help put people back to work.

The Response Program for Business is unique to the nation and is proving to be a groundbreaking opportunity to tackle the scourge of addiction that is creating such grim realities for too many Kentuckians, their families and their communities. For more information contact, [email protected].

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