Small Businesses and the Opioid Crisis: Here's What You Need to Know

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Washington, September 21, 2018 | comments

There’s no question the economy is soaring and with small business optimism at a record high, there’s much to be hopeful about. Employees are the lifeblood of a small business, and currently 25 percent of small businesses cite difficulty in finding qualified workers as their single biggest problem. In a survey by Private Capital Index, 54 percent of small businesses report they plan on hiring between 1 to 5 people in the next six months, but with the lack of qualified labor, attracting and retaining a capable workforce is difficult.

You might be surprised to hear that drug addiction is severely hindering small businesses and impeding their ability to fill important job openings. Last week, the Committee on Small Business held a hearing addressing these concerns and heard from several witnesses who have experienced this first-hand.

Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH), said:

“In 2015, an estimated two million workers were not in the labor force due to the opioid epidemic. According to a recent report by the National Safety Council, more than 70 percent of United States employers have been affected by employees’ prescription drug use. I’m proud President Trump has created a week to raise awareness about this tragic epidemic, and I look forward to seeing our communities create a strong and healthy workforce for future generations to come.”  

Here are some of the things witnesses told Committee Members during the hearing:

“While the human toll of the opioid crisis is unquestionable, rising opioid dependency is also likely impacting the nation’s labor market and economy. Workers on opioids are less productive; employers in opioid-affected areas have difficulty finding dependable workers and filling job openings; and, perhaps most important, working-age adults addicted to opioids are often absent from the labor market.”Mr. Ben Gitis, Director of Labor Market Policy at American Action Forum.

Half of Ohio businesses reported suffering consequences due to substance abuse including absenteeism and decreased productivity of their employees, and a shortage of workers who can pass drug tests. Unintentional drug overdoses that may have started as a prescription for a surgery or injury, cost an average of $5.4 million each day in medical and work loss costs in Ohio. Over 2,500 people of employment age (25-64) in Ohio died of an opioid overdose in 2017 alone.”Ms. Katie Van Dyke, Director of the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Cleveland State University.

With these staggering statistics, it’s important that we raise awareness about this deadly epidemic and continue to build a strong and healthy labor force. 
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