Opioid addiction is destroying hundreds of thousands of lives, devastating communities across the nation, and depriving America of workers when it needs them the most. The personal costs are devastating. The economic toll is staggering. It’s time for a multifaceted response to this crisis.
That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging Congress to complete action on the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. Among other important provisions, this bipartisan legislative package includes the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which requires the U.S. Postal Service to crack down on illicit Fentanyl shipments. The package also facilitates the disposal of controlled substances of hospice patients, secures funding to help states fight drug addiction, advances research of non-opioid pain therapies, and supports community-led private-public partnerships to combat addiction.
The business community has a direct stake in the fight against opioid addiction, which accounted for 20% of the decline in men’s workforce participation between 1999 and 2015. In addition, business owners are just as sensitive to the pain and suffering of our friends and neighbors as everyone else. We can’t stand by as drug addiction claims some 72,000 lives a year.
The Chamber is committed to marshalling the business response and promoting greater collaboration between the public and private sectors. Earlier this year, we brought together leaders from government, civic groups, and businesses to collaborate on finding solutions to this crisis. We also participated in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day by encouraging our members and employees to safely dispose of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.
Through a partnership with the Prescription Drug Safety Network, the U.S. Chamber Foundation is providing free digital prevention education courses to high school students in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The course teaches the basics of prescription drug safety, as well as the science behind addiction, refusal skills, how to identify the warning signs of misuse and abuse, and how to help a friend or peer in need.
Many businesses are offering help and treatment – instead of an automatic pink slip – to employees struggling with addiction and hiring those in recovery to help them rebuild their lives.
So we’re encouraging Congress to continue to act in a bipartisan fashion and get this package of bipartisan legislation to the president’s desk as soon as possible. There’s no time to delay as opioids are claiming more lives every day, communities are being undermined, and the health of our nation and its citizens are at risk.
By Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.