Track 4: Enhancing Public Health, Healthcare, and Emergency Management Systems
In this interactive session, participants will learn about the evidence connecting the opioid crisis to the workplace and the development and use of two National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) training tools that they may consider adapting to local needs and conditions. The first training program was developed for protection of emergency responders and is entitled, Prevention of Occupational Exposure to Fentanyl and Other Opioids. The second tool is entitled Opioids and the Workplace, Prevention and Response and is geared toward industries and occupations that are experiencing high rates of opioid use, misuse, addiction, and death.
The opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency and caused 48,000 deaths in 2017 alone. Recent research has detailed opioid fatalities by industry and occupation. The Massachusetts Department of Health reported 4,300 overdose deaths among workers, 2011-2015.. NIOSH published “Occupational patterns in opioid-involved overdose deaths — United States, 2007–2012” evaluating data ffrom 21 states that identified 57,810 drug overdose deaths. Both studies concluded that hazardous industries such as construction, farming, and fishing have higher overdose fatality rates. Occupational injury and related pain have been associated with opioid use disorder. Recommendations from the two reports include development of: 1) comprehensive drug-free workplace programs, 2) employee assistance programs, 3) peer-support networks, 4) education targeted to employees and employers, and evaluation of the effectiveness and impact of these programs.
In response to this crisis the NIEHS has developed a six-hour evidence based, interactive training program. The goal is to educate workers and employers on avoidance of opioid misuse and addiction. The program’s learning objectives are: 1) Discuss the scope and severity of the opioid crisis. 2) Summarize the relationship between workplace injuries and illnesses, working conditions, and opioid use disorder. 3) Identify occupational exposure, prevention, and response. 4) List actions that might be taken at the workplace to prevent and respond to opioid use and misuse.
NIEHS has also developed a four-hour awareness level training tool for emergency responders that prepares participants to recognize and respond to exposure to fentanyl and other opioids when these hazardous drugs may be present during work activities.
Community meetings with multiple stakeholders and coalition work with recovery organizations have focused on addressing the problems of stigma and punitive workplace drug programs that deter people with addictions from coming forward. New York State has established standards to improve access to treatment and recovery. In this session participants will also learn about key policy changes that were made to help overcome barriers to treatment by the insurance and healthcare industries.