Building Trades Unions Respond to Department of Public Health (DPH) Study on Opioid Related Overdose Deaths in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) recently released a report documenting opioid overdoses by industry and occupation, including construction. 

The outcome of this DPH study validates what we already know — that the construction industry is a physically-demanding and inherently dangerous profession. That’s why safety is always our top priority. However, the injuries sustained – whether due to an accident or as a result of a career of strenuous labor – can lead to the need for pain relief, prescriptions and ultimately opioid use, misuse and abuse.

We have been adhering to the policy of a drug free workplace for over 30 years, but through experience over that same period of time, we have come to realize the most effective approach to tackling this epidemic is to administer every decision, procedure and policy with empathy, compassion and treatment.  We have seen that this approach leads to healthier outcomes.

This study verifies that the protections provided by unions, such as training, safer work sites, family-supporting wages and comprehensive health care coverage, create the best pathway to a worker’s complete recovery – both on and off the job site and in treatment programs if necessary. We do this through our member assistance programs, which provide a single point of contact to help guide members and their families through substance abuse education, prevention and treatment programs. These programs provide support through every stage of the recovery process, and help our members get back to healthy.

We recognize the damaging role big pharmaceutical companies play in fueling this epidemic. That’s why through collaboration with our healthcare partners and providers, we are doing everything in our power to adopt best practices to make sure these highly addictive drugs are not unnecessarily prescribed or over-prescribed to patients.  Building Trades Unions in Massachusetts represent over 75,000 working families in the construction industry throughout the Commonwealth.

In partnership with over 3,300 union construction companies, we collectively spend over $1.1B on family health care plans and $48M on apprenticeship programs to provide workers with the safety, training and support necessary for each and every member to be safe and successful on and off the job site. The labor movement and building trades unions have been working at the federal, state and local levels to tackle this public health crisis—starting with how our health care plans prescribe medication all the way to providing comprehensive treatment services to members who need it.

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