The Opioid Epidemic in Wisconsin

At Casey Law Offices, S.C., we focus exclusively on prosecuting injury claims to ensure negligent individuals and businesses are held responsible for irresponsible behavior resulting in injury so those who are harmed are fairly compensated. We represent Wisconsinites who have suffered a variety of injuries, including those related to the national opioid crisis.

Our recent article series, “The Opioid Epidemic in Wisconsin,” explores how and why the abuse of prescription opioid drugs has become a national crisis, pharmaceutical companies’ role in the growing epidemic and how municipalities, businesses and individuals are holding these companies responsible. Visit our Blog for more articles in the series.

Construction Companies Hit Hard in Opioid Epidemic

Years of construction work can take a toll on a employee’s body. A worker in pain turns to painkillers, often opioids. Now we know that these drugs once turned to for comfort and relief are instead taking a significant toll on the laborers themselves, their families and the overall construction industry.

“What makes construction so vulnerable to this (opioid) epidemic is the physical nature of the work,” said Jill Manzo, Midwest researcher at the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. “Injury rates are 77 percent higher in construction than other occupations, and the financial incentive to get back to work before their bodies are healed is leading many down a path that can ultimately lead to abuse and even death.”

Manzo, the lead author of a new report published by the nonprofit Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI), writes that nearly 1,000 construction workers in the region died as a result of the opioid epidemic in 2015. That translates into a $5.2 billion loss to the Midwest construction industry in terms of lost production, lost family income and other costs. In Wisconsin, 92 deaths to Wisconsin’s construction industry cost state businesses $524 million.

The construction industry is surprisingly quiet about the problem.

According to a National Safety Council’s 2017 Survey on Drug Use and Substance Abuse, 15 percent of construction workers struggle with substance abuse. That’s almost double the national average. Yet a recent article in Forbes on opioid abuse in construction reports on the reluctance of construction companies to talk about the problem. Seventeen construction companies and workers at 27 construction sites nationwide were contacted to discuss the opioid issue. Only two executives were willing to go on the record and speak out about how the opioid crisis is hurting the construction industry.

The MEPI study finds that each construction worker with an untreated substance use disorder costs the employer $6,800 per year in excess health care costs, absenteeism and turnover costs. But when that employee is in recovery from the disorder, that cost is diminished.

The MEPI report makes several policy recommendations including: limiting opioid dosages; updating drug testing policies; promoting treatment in health insurance plans; educating employees about pain management; putting injured workers in low-risk positions while they heal; and guaranteeing two weeks of paid sick leave.

“Untreated substance abuse can cost contractors thousands of dollars each year in healthcare, absenteeism, and turnover costs, while preventing abuse or getting an employee into recovery can ultimately save thousands of dollars,” Manzo added. “Taking tangible steps to combat this crisis is a moral and economic imperative for both industry leaders and elected officials.”

This isn’t a problem that is going away any time soon. Construction companies have to be willing to speak out and address this issue in order to effect real change.

If you believe your company has been impacted by the opioid crisis, or if you or a family member has suffered from an addiction or overdose, we encourage you to contact our offices at: 414.272.3776 for a free consultation.