Mass. Contractors Address Opioid Crisis Head-On

Pills Drugs Opioids Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

The Massachusetts Associated General Contractors (AGC) has a strong commitment to reducing opioid abuse. Mike O'Brien, Massachusetts AGC's chairman of the board and vice president of Gilbane Building Co. wrote in a message on the association’s website, "An area of urgent concern is the growing opioid addiction facing our industry. Like you, I'm deeply concerned by the grip opioids have on many construction workers in our state."

Recently, after becoming aware of some other alarming statistics, the group has made an even more concerted effort to address the problem.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Massachusetts ranks in the top 10 states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths involving opioids. Of such deaths, 1,913 occurred in 2017, a rate of 28.2 deaths per 100,000 persons—almost twice as high as the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons.

Of even more concern to the Massachusetts AGC is the fact that construction workers represented 25 percent of all fatal opioid overdoses among the state's workers from 2011 to 2015, according to the state's Department of Public Health. And, construction workers are six times more likely to fatally overdose on opioids than other workers.

In response to the problem, the Massachusetts AGC, in cooperation with a number of construction companies and labor unions in the state, stopped work for a stand-down day on June 5. The stand-down involved work stoppages at approximately 50 work sites across the state, so speakers could provide information on opioids to the workers and site management.

"It was clear we had to do something," said Robert Petrucelli, CEO of the Massachusetts AGC. "No one talks about this, but it permeates our industry."

The Massachusetts AGC is also working with Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction to develop an opioid safety program that it will encourage construction employers in the state to adopt. The program provides information for employers on how to address opioid use among their workforce, such as recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug addiction, how to respond to an overdose, and providing information on local addiction treatment resources.

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