Business community partners with health department to fight opioid epidemic

In response to the ongoing opioid epidemic and its impact on Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Business Partnership (MBP) today released the Opioid Epidemic Response: Employer Toolkit.

Opioid addiction continues to be a major public health problem in Minnesota and other states. In 2017, Minnesota recorded 401 opioid-involved deaths and 694 drug overdose deaths, according to preliminary data. In 2016, there were 395 opioid-involved overdose deaths in Minnesota—a rate of 7.4 deaths per 100,000 people compared to the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000. Minnesota’s rate of deaths has risen dramatically since 2000, when it was 1.1 deaths per 100,000 residents.

The health department and the Minnesota Business Partnership, representing top executives of Minnesota’s largest employers, developed the toolkit through a collaborative effort after MBP approached MDH earlier this year.

“The problem of opioid addiction is a massive and complex public health crisis and to address it properly we need to work together across both the public and private sectors,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “We are grateful for the efforts of the Minnesota Business Partnership to help protect Minnesotans from this serious health threat.”

“Employers are deeply concerned about the opioid crisis and its impact on the health of employees and the State of Minnesota,” said Andrea Walsh, President and CEO of HealthPartners and co-chair of the MBP Health Policy Committee. “We need to be proactive in preventing addiction, reducing stigma and supporting treatment.  This toolkit is an important first step.”

The toolkit includes five concrete actions employers can take in preventing and addressing substance use disorder within a workplace:

  • Change the conversation around opioid use disorder and reduce stigma
  • Promote safe use, storage and disposal of controlled substances
  • Prepare for overdose emergencies with naloxone access and training
  • Access help for those who are dependent on or addicted to opioids
  • Support wellness of all employees and be a recovery-friendly workplace

The toolkit also has sample social media messages, e-mails and flyers employers can customize and distribute to employees according to each workplace’s needs.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, treatment for substance use disorders is highly effective. However, many people only enter treatment after a crisis. The Opioid Epidemic Response: Employer Toolkit provides employers with a chance to intervene early before a crisis occurs.

“The Minnesota Business Partnership members will be utilizing the toolkit to collectively engage more than 400,000 Minnesotans,” said MBP Health Policy co-chair and APi Group President and CEO Russ Becker. “Our goal is for businesses and other organizations, and even other states, to use this framework to address the opioid crisis.”

Access the Opioid Epidemic Response: Employer Toolkit on the MDH Opioid Dashboard. Visit the Opioid Dashboard to learn more about opioid emergency response, lifesaving naloxone, treatment and preventing the demand for drugs.