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State Chamber addresses opioid awareness

By submitted, 10/27/20 1:01 PM

LITTLE ROCK – In conjunction with National Red Ribbon Week (which began October 23) and “Chasing the Dragon: Opioid Awareness Day in Arkansas” on October 28, Together Arkansas, an opioid response initiative developed by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC), reminds Arkansans of the free toolkit and resources provided to help fight the opioid crisis in the state. Three new endorsements from Darynne Dahlem, Miss Arkansas; Kyle Brewer, Peer Support Specialist at UAMS; and Chris Dickie, CEO of Natural State Recovery Centers, and overdose survivor add to the growing testimonials.

“One of the positives that we have seen during the COVID-19 crisis is a general spirit of togetherness and agreement on what matters,” said Randy Zook, President and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber. “It’s that same type of collaboration that makes Together Arkansas a powerful tool for Arkansas employers and their employees struggling with addiction. The honest, straightforward experiences of Darynne, Chris, and Kyle strengthen the message of Together Arkansas; that working together, we can battle the opioid epidemic like never before.”

Together Arkansas was launched in November 2019, a collaboration of the three entities as part of their ongoing efforts to address the opioid crisis by providing employers in the state a resource at no cost to help develop and promote a drug-free workplace.

“Hearing the success stories of Kyle Brewer and Chris Dickie speak to their survival and the impact employers play in helping their employees beat a difficult addiction,” said AFMC President and CEO Ray Hanley. “With reports indicating skyrocketing numbers of opioid use and related overdoses related to the pandemic, their message of hope, resilience and life after addiction is impactful. AFMC promotes healthy people, healthy businesses and healthy communities. We are honored to be a part of this valuable resource that speaks directly to who we are.”

Together Arkansas provides employers with a toolkit of free resources to help them prepare, prevent, and respond to the opioid crisis. The online course consists of five modules (13 to 16 minutes per module) that cover legal and operational issues, best practices for drug-testing, developing policies and procedures, how to respond to an employee’s misuse of harmful drugs, where to refer an employee who needs help, and providing options for an employee to return to work.

“The pandemic has had a profound effect on everyone in one way or another in 2020,” said Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield President and CEO Curtis Barnett. “And for those battling opioid use disorder, the struggle can be even more intense. We are thankful to Darynne, Chris and Kyle for sharing their perspectives and experiences in an effort to empower and inspire others during this difficult time. Recovery is possible if we’re all working together Arkansas.”

Seventy-five percent of employers have had an issue with opioids in the workplace, according to a National Safety Council Employer Survey. The National Safety Council now says drug overdose is the Number 1 cause of unintentional death in the United States. In Arkansas, nearly half of the 444 reported drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018, a total of 208 fatalities, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Arkansas Opioid Summary.

To access the Together Arkansas modules or learn more about the initiative, visit www.togetherarkansas.com. For assistance, contact help@togetherarkansas.com.