ST. PAUL — A recent spike in drug overdoses can serve as a reminder for Minnesota businesses about an opioid response toolkit unveiled last year geared to them.

With tips like what to do if an employee overdoses and how staff should store their medication, the toolkit tackles the impact of substance abuse in the workplace.

“This is really about making sure people know what is available and, you know, trying to be proactive in preventing addiction, reducing stigma and supporting treatment,” said Lucas Nesse, the Minnesota Business Partnership’s health policy and grassroots director. His organization, along with the Minnesota Department of Health, created the toolkit.

The dangers of drug abuse have hit home recently, with a spike the past two weeks in reported overdoses — at least 175 in Minnesota, 17 of them fatal — by the 89 Minnesota police agencies taking part in the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program.

Minnesota has seen a steady increase in drug overdose deaths the past two decades, with 422 reported in 2017. There were also more than 2,000 overdoses treated in Minnesota hospital emergency rooms in 2017, the most recent year statewide figures are available.

“Employers are in a position to identify those early signs and symptoms and help connect employees to resources,” Nesse said.

What businesses should know

Along with the possibility of improving the lives of its employees, the kit helps businesses save on lost resources as well.

Loss of productivity, missed work, increased turnover, and workplace injuries are all symptoms of substance abuse or potential contributors, notes Sam Robertson, Minnesota Department of Health drug overdose prevention coordinator.

The National Safety Council and nonprofit Shatterproof has even created a cost calculator for businesses that take into consideration factors such as the size of the staff, the industry and where people live.

The toolkit is also flexible to every employer’s particular work environment. There are five key steps, each with multiple actions, employers can choose to take.

The tool kit is a unique innovation, said Nesse, who hopes it spreads beyond Minnesota.

What's in the toolkit?

The kit, created in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health, is composed of five basic steps employers can take:

1. Change the conversation

2. Promote safe use, storage and disposal

3. Prepare for overdose emergencies

4. Make help accessible

5. Support wellness

“It provides employers with some really basic, concrete tools they can use to promote a healthy workplace,” Robertson said.

Actions within each step range from exploring insurance coverage that supports a variety of pain management options to training staff to administer the lifesaving naloxone in the event of an overdose to ensuring company social gatherings include alcohol- and drug-free events.

“We are trying to have that supportive environment whether you are the person with substance disorder or somebody in your family is,” said Department of Health’s public relations officer Julie Bartkey.

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The Opioid Epidemic Response Employer Toolkit can be accessed free online at tinyurl.com/y3xl85qa.