Opioid epidemic reduces small business labor force, House of Representatives told

September 13, 2018

Opioid epidemic reduces small business labor force, House of Representatives told

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The opioid crisis poses major challenges to small businesses in Ohio as  employers in rural and urban areas alike have trouble finding workers who can pass drug tests, the director of Cleveland State University’s Ohio Small Business Development center on Thursday told a congressional committee.

“From small businesses struggling to fill needed positions to Ohioans unable to fulfill their working potential, opioids are a plague on Ohio’s economy,” development center director Katie Van Dyke told the U.S. House of Representatives’ Small Business Committee. “We used to hear about issues pertaining to access to capital and cash flow. Now, what we hear about far too much from our clients is: ‘I need help finding employees - I can’t find anyone who can pass a drug test.’”

Van Dyke noted that opioid overdose deaths increased 39 percent in Ohio from 2016 to 2017, and many of the deaths were not stereotypical “junkies.” She said 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 alone.

She said small business development centers in Ohio are conducting workshops to help employers take a pro-active role toward the opioid crisis, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation offers drug free workplace training sessions, and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Working Partners and Anthem to offer further workplace resources.

“The most important thing we as a community can do is to get everyone to talk about the facts, the staggering statistics, and break down the stigma that this is someone else’s problem - it affects us all, whether directly or indirectly,” Van Dyke told the subcommittee. “If we can face this problem with as much knowledge as possible, we will be better armed for changing the statistics and creating a healthier workforce.”

The committee’s chairman, Cincinnati-area GOP Rep. Steve Chabot, said many young working age Americans aren’t looking for jobs because of opioid addiction, making it harder for businesses to fill important openings. A recent report by the National Safety Council estimated that more than 70 percent of U.S. employers have been affected by prescription drug use, said Chabot.

Chabot said his committee will use the material it collected at the hearing to examine ways the federal government can help small businesses find ways to help their workers.

“Employers want employees to be successful,” agreed newly elected GOP Rep. Troy Balderson, of Zanesville, who was attending his first hearing as a Small Business Committee member. ” If they are successful, businesses are successful also. Getting employees the help they need is vital.”

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