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3 Ways Employers Can Reach Out During the Opioid Crisis

opioids crisis

2 minute read

The opioid crisis in the United States has reached alarming peaks. The extent of its reach may have touched someone you know, whether it’s a co-worker, spouse, or other family member. Employees and employers alike may feel helpless in this type of situation when it seems so large and unmanageable but here are some simple steps employers can take to help address the crisis.


Drug Safety & Prevention

It’s estimated that more than half of people ages 12 and older who misused prescription opioids first obtained them for free from a friend or family member.1 Does your medicine cabinet contain unused or expired medications? Would you notice if a bottle or a few pills were missing? Drug safety and prevention begins at home.

  • Provide education on topics like:
    • How to properly dispose of unused or expired meds
    • Where and how to safely store your prescriptions
    • The risks of opioid use
  • Encourage employees to take advantage of “take back” prescription drug programs sponsored by cities, pharmacies, or local health departments



When employees are faced with making some important decisions, employee education and resources are key in helping them find a solution that meets their needs. Employers can encourage employees or their family members to get safe and effective treatment if they suffer from drug addiction.

  • If you offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), promote it throughout the year via posters, emails, etc. What is the phone number employees can call? What sort of confidential services and tools are available to them?
  • Check to see if your insurance carrier offers confidential substance abuse hotline where employees can receive education and referrals for treatment.


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Workplace Culture  

“Finally, employers can help mitigate stigma associated with substance use disorders by educating employees about the biological nature of addictions. Substance use disorders are brain-based illnesses; they are not diseases of failed willpower or character weakness. Creating a tolerant, understanding work environment helps increase the likelihood that employees will feel comfortable seeking assistance.”2

For more employer tips, read the full article.


1 Dengler, Roni. “Almost half of all opioid misuse starts with a friend or family member’s prescription.” PBS News House. 31 July 2017. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/opioid-misuse-starts-friend-family-members-prescription.

2 Kuhl, Emily. “Mitigating the Effects of Opioid Use among Workers.” http://workplacementalhealth.org/Mental-Health-Topics/Opioid-Disorders. (Accessed 29 April 2019)


Additional Resources:

U.S. Food & Drug Administration Remove the Risk Outreach Toolkit -  Safe Opioid Disposal (posters, fact sheets, PSAs, etc.)

Opioid Epidemic Fact Sheet

Effects of Opioid Addiction Infographic

Opioid Addiction Poster


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Steve Smith

Steve Smith

Steve Smith, Employee Benefits Consultant for National Insurance Services, has his energy level permanently set at “high.” His maxim is “work hard, play hard." In addition to coaching youth basketball and his relentless addiction to volunteering, Steve’s community service and political activities make him an expert in stirring the groundswell and getting groups of people working together for a higher cause. Minnesota schools, cities, and counties rely on Steve’s unique and creative ideas of engaging employees in their own health and wellness to lower utilization trends. He has a background in the health insurance field doing compliance, cost mitigation, utilization, analytics, wellness plans, and strategic planning. Steve is a licensed insurance agent and is Medicare Certified. He holds the designations for Managed Healthcare Professional (The Health Insurance Association of America), Certified Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Professional (National Association of Health Underwriters), and Group Benefits Disability Specialist (Hartford School of Insurance). Steve is a member of the Minnesota Assocation of Health Underwriters (MAHU). He specializes in Employee Benefits Consulting for Minnesota schools, cities, and counties including fully insured, self-insured, and stop-loss plans.