Home » Opioid addiction impacting many critical areas in Kentucky, including workforce

Opioid addiction impacting many critical areas in Kentucky, including workforce

(L to R) Dave Adkisson, Van Ingram and Gil Lui
(L to R) Dave Adkisson, Van Ingram and Gil Lui

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

As opioid addiction continues to plague Kentucky and present clear challenges for the health and safety of the state, Kentucky’s business community is also seeing many struggles associated with the crisis among the commonwealth’s workforce.

At a meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare Wednesday, Kentucky Chamber president and CEO Dave Adkisson testified on the impact of the state’s opioid crisis on the economy and employment.

Adkisson testified alongside Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram and Department of Medicaid Services Medical Director Gil Lui who illustrated the dire situation faced by the state from a health and financial standpoint.

Ingram began his remarks by stating that by midnight tonight, four Kentuckians and 140 Americans will be dead from overdose. Ingram pointed to the overexposure of prescription opioids as part of the reason the state currently faces a heroin crisis and said while the state is launching new initiatives and laws to help tackle the issue, more work is yet to be done on prevention and treatment.

Dr. Liu explained that Kentucky spends less on treatment than many of the surrounding states and said the Medicaid waiver submitted by the state would give the state a chance to use more of Medicaid dollars on substance abuse treatment rather than on psychotropic drugs.

Among the many health challenges facing the U.S., none has hit Kentucky harder than opioid addiction, Adkisson said.

“The impact of the opioid crisis on Kentuckians’ health is staggering, with more than 1,400 overdose deaths reported last year. Less obvious, however, is the toll it has taken on the state’s economic growth and development,” Adkisson said.

Adkisson stated that in Kentucky, the opioid crisis has contributed to a workforce participation challenge that undermines the competitiveness of existing businesses while creating barriers to new investments.

“The businesses I’ve talked with throughout the state say drug abuse is a key contributor to the problem. Many people actively looking for work cannot pass the drug tests required for employment. And those who do have jobs are exiting the workforce due to untreated, or undertreated, addictions,” Adkisson said.

Because of these challenges, Adkisson said prevention and treatment with the goal of full recovery must be a top priority for the state.

Adkisson pointed to initiatives in many other states to reform the workers’ compensation system to better manage the use of prescription drugs. An example of reforms in those systems that have been implemented in more than 40 other states is the use of drug formularies and medical treatment guidelines to reduce costs while still allowing the access to quality care.

A 2016 research brief by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) estimates that if Kentucky adopted a formulary, prescription drug costs in workers’ compensation could be reduced by 10%-20%, Adkisson said.

The Kentucky Chamber released a Workforce Participation report that lays out these challenges and others faced by the state’s business community when it comes to filling jobs available.

For more state government news go to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s The Bottom Line news site.