Chamber breakfast focus on opioid crisis, effect on local business

Kentucky’s business community has become acutely aware in recent years that the state’s opioid epidemic is more than a public health issue. It is also a serious workforce issue – one that employers must address to meet their challenges of finding and retaining workers.

To involve the business community in combating the epidemic, the Kentucky Chamber’s Workforce Center is partnering with the state cabinets for Health and Family Services and Justice and Public Safety, biopharmaceutical company Alkermes and Aetna Better Health of Kentucky on a new, employer-focused initiative.

Opioid abuse is killing more and more Kentuckians every day. In 2017, more than 1,500 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses -- an average of four each and every day -- and the number of deaths is increasing by a rate of 11.5% each year.

Due to these numbers, Mayfield/Graves County Chamber invites local businesses Tuesday, Dec. 17, from 7:30-8:30 a.m., at the WKRECC Community Room as we discuss opioid abuse in Graves County, the scope of the problem, current efforts to reduce abuse, and best practices that can be adopted by local businesses to combat the problem.

The Opioid Response Program for Business, led by a task force of business and industry representatives, can work directly with employers to help audit their policies and recommend best practices to maintain a drug-free workplace while supporting a recovery-friendly culture. Their focus is on destigmatizing the addiction epidemic and supporting employers’ role in opioid prevention, treatment and recovery in the workplace.

Economic research has found a strong link between rising opioid prescriptions and declining workforce participation rates, estimating that nearly half of men age 25-54 who are not in the workforce take pain medication daily, and have a higher rate of absenteeism among opioid abusers who work.

Kentucky’s high level of substance abuse was a contributing factor in the state’s low workforce participation rate (one of the lowest in the country) in a 2017 Kentucky Chamber of Commerce report.

“Employers are feeling the impact firsthand,” said Denise Thompson, Director and CEO of the Mayfield/Graves County Chamber of Commerce. “As businesses struggle to find and retain workers, the opioid crisis is making the challenges even greater, and we are trying to educate and help our members in any way we can.”

Kentucky has taken a number of actions in recent years to combat the opioid epidemic, but the persistent need requires additional effort.

To learn more about this program and ways local companies can assist, or to reserve a place for the December Breakfast Blender focusing on Community Wellness and the Opioid Epidemic, please contact Allison Sloan, community relations coordinator with the Mayfield/Graves Chamber of Commerce, at 270-247-6101 or email