Employers can help workers fight addiction

Posted at 12:40 PM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 20:47:25-04

The next step in the fight against prescription painkiller abuse in Wisconsin starts with employers, according to Attorney General Brad Schimel. 

Schimel spoke at Wisconsin Public Service in Green Bay Tuesday to present the next phase of the Dose of Reality campaign to prevent the abuse. This phase focuses on employers, and equipping them with the proper tools to guide employees who may be suffering from addiction towards help. 

"We have a lot better chance of helping someone struggling with addiction if we get to them earlier," said Schimel.

Schimel said this problem with opiates is the worst public safety crisis he's seen in his years in law enforcement, as well as a public health crisis. 

"The power of this addiction is stronger than the fear of death," said Schimel.

Schimel urged employers to incorporate prescription drugs into drug policies and drug testing. He also wants them to be able to guide employees in the right direction for resources.

At Wisconsin Public Service, the company is already doing these things. 

"We have a voluntary program where they can come forward and they will receive treatment, and the company will pay for that treatment," said Pat Schillinger, Vice President of Wisconsin Public Service.

Schillinger said the program has worked.

"We've definitely had employees that have faced issues and received treatment, and are obviously still productive employees in the company," he explained.

The problem of prescription painkiller abuse can also be linked to other problems in the state, such as heroin abuse and human trafficking, Schimel said.

Nationwide, employers lose about $26 billion dollars a year because of employee problems with prescription painkillers.