Last Friday, Nov. 15, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce held the first of four free Regional Employer Technical Assistance Workshops designed to help Kentucky employers understand the basics of substance use disorder and addiction, the impact of substance use on their workforce and to provide recommendations and tools for the employers to support their employees in recovery from or impacted by substance use disorder.

Numerous topics were covered during the workshop, including: “The Impact of Substance Use on Businesses,” “The Science of Addiction,” “The Workplace and Substance Use Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery,” “Transformational Employer Testimonials,” “Workplace Implementation Support” and more.

Beth Davison, executive director of the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center, said there were only going to be four workshops held in the state and the kick-off event was in Hazard.

“This is a ground-breaking initiative, it is the first of its kind,” said Davison. She continued, “It is in partnership with the Criminal Justice Cabinet, the Office of Drug Control Policy, the Cabinet of Health and Family Services, EKCEP and the KY Chamber, so it is a combined effort to really bring businesses and those state services to the table.”

The KY Chamber, Davison said, decided to hold the workshops, because, in June, the organization participated in a state-wide opioid summit expecting 50 businesses to show, but 300 businesses ended up coming instead.

“It signaled to us that businesses need education,” said Davison. The chamber, she said, hopes to hold multiple workshops each year to further this education and awareness effort.

“No matter where you are in the state, employers are looking for answers,” she said. “When you look at the DEA data that came out, we know that two billion prescription opioid pills were pumped into Kentucky between 2006 and 2012. That is 150 pills for every man, woman and child per year, so there’s no wonder why we’re all in shock and that our communities have just been ravaged by this.”

The attending employers were not the only people who were moved by the workshop, as many of the speakers said they felt like the event was very important to them and the area.  

“I’m very excited to be here with the Kentucky Chamber and to have so many employers come out to focus on this topic, because six years ago I was struggling with substance abuse disorder,” said Ashley McCarty, a Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center employment specialist. “I’m in recovery myself, so I have over six years clean, and just to be standing in front of this group of people and knowing there are this many concerned citizens out there, so many concerned employers out there, it just means so much to me.”

To provide these employers with the education in order to give support to their employees, McCarty said, especially those that are in recovery, is important to her and the chamber.

“These employees that are in recovery, they make good employees actually. They miss work less, they switch employers less and they take less sick days than the general work force, so they are very productive employees to the company,” McCarty said.

The next workshop will be held in Henderson on Nov. 22, followed by a workshop in Lexington on Dec. 10 and will close with a workshop in Florence on Dec. 11.

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