Congressman Barletta Seeks Solutions for Opioid Crisis

Nov 8, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) sought solutions to opioid related workforce issues during a Committee on Education and the Workforce joint subcommittee hearing on the opioid crisis.  The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development joined together for a hearing titled, “Close to Home: How Opioids are Impacting Communities.”  The hearing examined how the opioid public health emergency is affecting American families, communities, and the economy.

Barletta questioned Tim Robinson, Founder and CEO of the Addiction Recovery Center in Louisa, Kentucky on ways in which rehabilitation facilities can partner with employers to fill in demand jobs. 

Whenever I sit down with Pennsylvania business owners, they tell me a major roadblock to job growth in recent years has been directly connected to the opioid crisis,” Barletta said.  “These employers have good-paying jobs they desperately need to fill, but can’t find people to pass the drug tests necessary for hiring.”

Mr. Robinson acknowledged this problem, suggesting that “workforce development boards need to be as involved in this opioid issue as the health care side,” while also noting that employers must be willing to come to the table and hire recovering addicts.

Barletta agreed, saying “I think the first step is getting help for people, so the public and employers, and the nation understand this is a disease and an illness. This is an illness, and as a country we need to understand that, get people healthy with treatment and then give them another shot at life.”

The national ramifications of the opioid public health emergency are far-reaching.  As the opioid public health emergency continues to worsen, the effects will be seen in the economy.  Data from the Centers for Disease Control analyzing opioid overdose deaths by age groups in 1999 and 2015 showed that the people most likely to die of an opioid overdose are between the ages of 25 and 39 years old.

These are people who are squarely in the nation’s workforce and significant contributors to the American economy.  Of prime age men who are not in the labor force, almost half take pain medication every day. Two-thirds of these men take prescription pain medication daily.  The costs associated with opioid abuse have an impact on many different sectors of the economy.  

  • $25 billion to the health care system
  • $25.6 billion to the workplace, in the form of lost earnings and employment
  • $5.1 billion to the criminal justice system

According to many analysts, the worst of the opioid public health crisis is yet to come.  A comprehensive strategy is needed to assist families, communities, and the American economy at large.  The Committee on Education and the Workforce is committed to being a part of the conversation in order to help bring this health emergency to an early end.

“The worst thing we could do as a nation is help people and get them treatment, and then slam a door in their face when they’re looking for another chance,” Barletta said.

Watch Barletta’s question HERE.