How can we navigate the opioid crisis?

Hank Hayes • Jan 31, 2020 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT — Nearly 150 employers and others concerned with the opioid crisis packed Food City's Press Room on Thursday in search of answers.

They got various perspectives on the crisis during a "Navigating The Opioid Crisis For Employers" hosted by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Bradley Jackson, the chamber's president and CEO, noted Tennessee's economy has created almost a half million jobs while businesses of all sizes are relocating and expanding in the state.

"However, employers in all parts of the state face increasing challenges in light of the opioid crisis," Jackson said. "We all know a friend, family member or neighbor who has struggled with opioid abuse disorder. It's not just a threat to public health. It's a a threat to Tennessee's business and manufacturing community as well."

Jackson cited a University of Tennessee study that showed Tennessee has lost $2 billion to the opioid crisis in large part due to lost wages and those who have left the workforce due to opioid abuse disorder.

"It's affecting our workforce. It's affecting every level of society," ReVIDA Recovery Centers Chief Clinical Officer Zac Talbott said of the crisis.

Opioid abuse disorder, Talbott noted, is the inability to control or reduce use and continued use despite social function.

"We see loss of home, loss of finances," Talbott continued. "We see loss of spouse, loss of child ... this (region) is ground zero for us."

Ballad Health Recovery Program Manager Jason Pritchard shared his story of overcoming drug use.

"From an early age, I was showed that this was a family type business but we don't talk about it," Pritchard said.

Pritchard said he was incarcerated twice for six months and in 2012 was sentenced to six years in jail but served five years.

"Three convicted felons work on my team, including myself," Pritchard added. "I want to do everything possible to not be the person I was."

Angelee Murray, ReVIDA's director of corporate and community engagement, told the crowd one way to spot opioid abuse is observing an employee's weight gain or loss.

"That's a surefire sign of misusing or abusing drugs or alcohol," she said.

For more go to: www.tnchamber.org/otk.

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