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The Kansas Milestone | Summer 2022

Why the opioid crisis matters to Kansas contractors (and your families)



The opioid crisis has plagued the nation since the late 1990s. The latest wave of overdose deaths struck the state of Kansas exceedingly hard. Overall overdose deaths in Kansas grew 43%, from 476 in 2020 to 680 in 2021. This percentage increase was second only to Alaska’s 75% increase. 53% of all overdoses in 2020 were attributable to opioids.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 107,622 overdose deaths in 2021. This was a 15% increase over 2020 following a 30% increase in 2019. Between 2019 and 2020, deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased to over 71,000 from almost 58,000.

Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 80- 100 times stronger than morphine. Synthetic opioids are cheaper and easier to make and distribute. As a result, fentanyl is used to make counterfeit prescription pills that are deadly.

Why Construction Is Impacted Hard By Opioids and Overdose Deaths Unfortunately, national and statewide data has not been compiled to show overdose deaths by industry or occupation. In the few jurisdictions where public health agencies have calculated this data, construction is either the top one or two industry impacted greatest by opioids.

Here is why that matters:

1. Overdose deaths inflict a toll on families, workplaces, communities, and the state economy.

2. Year after year, a portion of working aged adults and youth is lost to overdoses. The opioid crisis has shrunk the possible workforce candidate pool for industries like construction and manufacturing. 65.3% of the decedents are male compared to 34.7% female.

3. Nationally, the age group most affected by overdoses is those aged between 25-34 years. State data for 2021 is not yet available. However, data for 2020 confirms this trend for Kansas by age for opioid overdoses:

Resources: Ahmad, FB, Rossen LM, and Sutton P. Provisional drug overdose death counts. National Center for Health Statistics. 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/ drug-overdose-data.htm

Beyer, Cal, and Newland, Brand. (October 10, 2021). Optimizing Surgical Outcomes. Insurance Thought Leadership. https://www.insurancethoughtleadership. com/life-health/optimizing-surgical-outcomes

Beyer, Cal., Jones, Richard., and Newland, Brand. (April/ May 2022). Waging a Counterattack on Opioids in the Workplace and at Home. Construction Financial Management Association. (CFMA). Building Profits. https:// cfma.org/files/o-files/view-file/7eb2bd81-7ccf-46b3- a3b6-aa71aa7dbfb1

KFF. Mental Health & Substance Use Indicators. Opioid Overdose Deaths. https://www.kff.org/state-category/ mental-health/opioids/

< 24 yrs 20.2%

25-34 27.1%

35-44 19.1%

45-54 15.6%

55+ 18%

Source: KFF

4. Prescription medications continue to be source of new persistent opioid use in construction. In Waging a Counterattack Against Opioids in the Workplace and at Home, the increased frequency of opioid prescriptions among construction workers is highlighted. Moreover, prescription doses tend to be 20% stronger and for 20% longer durations. This contributes to persistent opioid use leading to addiction. This article highlights eight First-Dose Prevention Strategies to decrease the risk of opioids at home and in the workplace.

5. Surgery is a leading gateway to new persistent opioid use. Depending on the type of surgery, between 8-18% of patients are affected. Opioidsparing Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols use up to 90% less opioids than conventional surgical methods. It is imperative for employees and dependents enrolled in contractor health benefit programs to know non-opioid medications exist. Moreover, multi-modal pain relief can be more effective at controlling post-surgical pain than opioids and without the risk of addiction. Become informed and be an advocate for yourself or any other family member scheduled for any medical or dental surgical procedures.

Cal Beyer

Cal Beyer

Cal Beyer, CWP, SCTPP is Vice President of Workforce Risk & Worker Wellbeing for Holmes Murphy. He’s been dedicated to construction risk and safety management since 1996. He was director of risk management and safety for a paving contractor in the Pacific Northwest from 2014-2020. He serves on the Executive Committee of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Cal helped to launch the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Contact Cal at cbeyer@holmesmurphy.com or 651/307-7883.

Molly Meek

Molly Meek

Molly Meek is an Employee Benefits Account Executive in the Kansas City office of Holmes Murphy. Molly collaborates with contractors to review and evaluate population health trends to design and implement costeffective employee benefit programs. Molly partners with clients to find innovative funding solutions for their benefits packages. She seeks to provide a competitive advantage for employers in recruiting and retaining employees through desirable employee benefit programs. Contact Molly at mmeek@ holmesmurphy.com or 816/857-7880.