Sunday, November 19, 2017
Opinion

Column: Businesses must help fight drug abuse

RECOMMENDED READING


If you think drug misuse and abuse doesn't affect the business community, think again.

In Pinellas County over the course of 2010, deaths were reported with oxycodone present or as a cause of death every 36 hours. It's an escalating problem spreading to all corners of our state, and it does not discriminate based on socioeconomic level, ethnicity or age. The business community in Florida is no different and has been severely impacted by prescription opioid abuse in particular.

Addiction transforms hard-working Americans into disrupted and unproductive employees functioning at about two-thirds of their capability. According to a study, the abuse of prescription opioids cost U.S. businesses more than $25 billion in 2007. This is an issue that our business community must prioritize to ensure our employees remain healthy and productive.

Over the years, Florida policymakers have made huge strides to combat drug abuse and overdoses, including: establishing a more stringent prescription drug monitoring program; making the anti-overdose medication, Naloxone, more readily available; shutting down pill mills across the state; and expanding the availability of opioids with abuse-deterrent properties. These strides have directly saved thousands of lives and are vital tools against drug abuse.

But unfortunately, the problem persists.

Sixty-seven percent of human resources professionals believe that addiction is one of the most serious issues they face in their company. Yet only one in five say their company openly and proactively deals with employee addiction issues. This statistic is staggering when there are an estimated 500 million workdays lost annually due to addiction problems.

It is time that employers unite to listen to our community and find solutions.

In a recent study, 97 percent of St. Petersburg residents said they would be likely to suggest that someone they know suffering from opioid addiction seek treatment. Yet only one in five respondents said they were very confident that they know where to send someone for treatment.

Nationally, only 3 percent of physicians are qualified to treat opioid addiction in an office-based setting with certain medications.

Under the provisions of the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, physicians who have completed appropriate training or meet other qualifications are able to obtain a federal waiver to provide Medication Assisted Treatment in an office-based setting. This process includes a medication combined with counseling and behavioral therapy.

The survey demonstrated that our community overwhelmingly agrees that an increase in local certified physicians who are qualified to treat opioid addiction within their office would reduce the number of opiate overdoses.

Drug abuse requires many solutions from the national, state and local perspective. Increasing our arsenal of resources to include unique community-based solutions will help our employees, businesses and our communities.

We can't do this without the help of our local physicians and our neighbors. We must first educate our neighbors that there is this local option for those suffering from addiction. We must also open the lines of communication with our physicians and encourage those who are not already certified to become certified to offer Medication Assisted Treatment in an office-based setting. This will provide our neighbors with a community-based treatment option with a local physician they know and trust.

Florida and the state's business community cannot afford the continued spread of drug abuse throughout the state, and we must make all efforts to curb this problem. Our communities must unite and address this problem with community-based solutions to ensure our employees maintain healthy and productive lives.

Julio Fuentes is president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17