INDIANAPOLIS — Several Indiana businesses have started carrying Narcan to combat the harmful effects of drug overdoses, and state leaders are encouraging more companies to follow suit.
On Thursday, the Wellness Council of Indiana and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce emphasized that the state is adopting a unique approach to tackle the drug epidemic.
A survey by the Wellness Council of Indiana involved hundreds of Hoosier employers. The report followed a previous study carried out a few years back. Shockingly, the rate of employee absenteeism due to drug abuse has increased tremendously. Over 50% of the respondents stated that drugs affected employee productivity. Almost 90% of employers acknowledge drug abuse is a significant community concern. Many employers are implementing measures to help employees struggling with substance abuse.
“And this is a significant increase from the last survey,” said Jennifer Pferrer, Executive Director-Wellness Council of Indiana. “There are so many resources available that we want employers to understand that this isn’t something that’s just on them; this is something that the community and the state have resources to support.”
According to Pfeffer, employers must provide resources for substance abuse treatment through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). The survey revealed that over 80 percent of employers offer EAP assistance, but only a small percentage of employees utilize these services.
Douglas Huntsinger, the Executive Director for Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement and the Chairman of the Indiana Commission to Combat Substance, said there had been an encouraging trend of employers assisting employees struggling with drug addiction.
“This mirrors the priority laid out by Governor Holcomb, and the legislature laid out to protect our most vulnerable Hoosiers,” he said. “It reflects the shift in the public attitude toward mental health and addiction, which will help Indiana turn the tides. We know that when we equip our employers with the tools to support individuals in the workplace, we will get better outcomes.”
Pferrer notes that Indiana is receiving recognition on a national level for its efforts in combating addiction. She emphasizes the need for the state to continue using data, including the survey, to guide future decisions. Indiana’s overdose death rate declined by over 20 percent in 2021.
“Preliminary data for 2022 shows that that trend is continuing, and so that’s really attributed to the awareness in Indiana that addiction is a problem and specifically that fentanyl is a driving force in overdoses and overdose deaths,” added Huntsinger.