Columbus CEO | Bob Vitale | August 7, 2017
Businesses aren’t immune from the drug epidemic that’s hitting central Ohio hard.
For every person who dies from a drug overdose, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says another 130 people are living with an addiction. And in 2016, more than 350 Franklin County residents—an increase of 71 percent over the last five years—overdosed and died.
The opioid epidemic—that’s not hyperbole; it meets the public-health definition of the word—has been described as the worst drug crisis in US history, and Ohio has been identified as an epicenter for drug seizures, arrests, overdoses and deaths.
It’s not an issue that simply vanishes at the doors of the state’s offices, factories, warehouses, restaurants, retail shops and other places of business.
“If it’s rampant in our community, it’s a workplace problem,” says Dee Mason, the founder and CEO of Working Partners, a Canal Winchester company that helps businesses create and manage drug-free workplace programs.
But Mason and others who are trying to stem the tide of opioid abuse say that as businesses grapple with their own issues of lost productivity, higher absenteeism, greater risk of workplace accidents and other problems brought on by substance use among employees, they also must be part of the effort to address its broader consequences in their communities.
A new Franklin County Opiate Action Plan released in June by county commissioners and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther issued only vague calls about “partnering with business leaders” to address the crisis. The mayor, however, says employers soon will become an integral part of the city-county plan to educate the public, expand treatment and reduce the number of drug-related deaths.
“It’s impacting businesses: their employees, their families, their customers, their communities,” Ginther says. “We know we’re in for the long haul, and that’s why we need the help of the private sector.”