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Kentucky’s Opioid Epidemic Impacting State’s Workforce

The president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce says opioid abuse is taking a toll on the state’s economic growth and development. 

David Adkisson says many people looking for work can’t pass a drug test, and many of those who do have jobs are leaving the workforce because of untreated or under-treated addictions.  That has contributed to a low workforce participation rate, according to Adkisson.

"If we were simply at the national average, there would be 165,000 more workers in the Kentucky economy than there are today," stated Adkisson.  "Opioid addiction is one of the contributing factors to that, but it's a significant factor."The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration conducts an annual survey that measures illicit drug use among states.  The most recent results show 410,000 Kentuckians over the age of 18 have used marijuana in the past year, 56,000 have used cocaine, and 19,000 admitted to heroin use. 

Because of those challenges, Adkisson says prevention and treatment must be a top priority for the state.  Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed legislation to drive down the number of opioids prescribed. The law prevents doctors from prescribing more than a three-day supply of painkillers, with some exceptions.  The measure also increased penalties for trafficking in opioids. 

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy says more than 1,400 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses last year, a seven percent increase from the previous year.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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