Together Arkansas, an opioid response initiative developed by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC), was unveiled Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the State Chamber/AIA Annual Meeting at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

Together Arkansas provides employers with a toolkit of free resources to help them prepare, prevent and respond to the opioid crisis. The online course consists of five modules (13 to 16 minutes per module) that cover legal and operational issues, best practices for drug-testing, developing policies and procedures, how to respond to an employee’s misuse of harmful drugs, where to refer an employee who needs help, and providing options for an employee to return to work.

Opioid-use disorder took 43,400 workers out of Arkansas’s labor force between 1999 and 2015, according to the American Action Forum, and 574 million work hours were lost to substance-use disorder during the same time period.

“Opioid-use disorder is impacting Arkansas employers of every kind – from small operations to large corporations,” said State Chamber/AIA President & CEO Randy Zook. “It is creating daily challenges for employers because it affects their greatest asset: their employees.”

Opioid-use disorder caused $33.5 billion real economic output in lost productivity for Arkansas’s economy between 1999 and 2015, according to the American Action Forum, and seven of 10 human resource officials reported their company felt the effects of substance-use disorder including absenteeism, decreased productivity and safety.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the biggest threats to business and our economy today,” said Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield President and CEO Curtis Barnett. “Providing Arkansas employers with tools to address a problem as pervasive as opioid-use disorder is critical. That’s why Arkansas Blue Cross is supporting the Together Arkansas initiative. Helping employees break the bonds of addiction, get and stay healthy keeps them creative, innovative and productive. And that makes Arkansas strong.”

Seventy-five percent of employers have had an issue with opioids in the workplace, according to a National Safety Council Employer Survey.

“At AFMC, our mission is to improve health care for all Arkansans,” said AFMC President and CEO Ray Hanley. “We hope this toolkit will better equip employers across the state to deal with the issues resulting from employees who may be struggling with opioid or substance abuse.”

Today, Americans are more likely to die of opioid abuse than a car crash, according to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts.

Ninety-five percent of all overdoses occur in working-age adults between the ages of 18 and 64, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

In Arkansas, opioids take one life every two days and in 2017 there were 194 opioid-related deaths in the state, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Arkansas Opioid Summary.

To access the Together Arkansas modules or learn more about the initiative, visit www.togetherarkansas.com. For assistance, contact help@togetherarkansas.com.

For More Information on Together Arkansas
Contact:
Shelley Short
Arkansas State Chamber/AIA
501-944-2028

Max Greenwood
Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield
501-378-2131

Carol Cassil
AFMC
501-212-8732 or 501-804-2392