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AGC of Massachusetts Hosts Industry-Wide Opioid Summit in Boston

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AGC of Massachusetts (AGC MA) convened a summit on Jan. 23, 2019, at the Westin Copley Hotel in Boston, for a ground-breaking panel presentation and discussion to address the devastating impact of the opioid crisis on the commercial construction industry and how the industry can join forces to more effectively address the issue and seek help for affected employees.

The three-hour summit, attended by more than 170 representatives from leading construction management and general contracting firms, subcontractors and the building trades, included a powerful opening presentation by respected healthcare and healthcare provider experts Michael Botticelli of the Grayken Institute, Lisa Kelly-Croswell, Boston Medical Center, Ken Duckworth, BCBS MA & National Alliance for Mental Illness and Julianne Bride, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA.

They provided stunning statistics on the societal, medical and economic impact of opioid use in Massachusetts and the challenges faced by both employers and their employees seeking help.

For example, Boston Medical Center conducted an anonymous employee survey revealing that 30.8 percent of employees surveyed had an immediate family member who had experience with a SUD and 51.2 percent of employees felt uncomfortable speaking with a supervisor about mental health or substance use issues they were experiencing. The top two reasons for not speaking to a manager were concerns about confidentiality and fear of missing out on possible career advancement.

Although opioid prescription use has fallen, the annual cost of opioid addiction and treatment has risen into millions for employers in lost time, job turnover and training and medical coverages.

In a recent research report conducted by the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation it was discovered that opioids have kept an estimated 32,700 people from participating in the labor force in Massachusetts over the past seven years and 4.2 percent of total employed in the state reported pain reliever misuse. These individuals average an extra 18 more days off from work than those who do not misuse prescription pain medications.

A second panel of construction employers and trade union officials shared their perspectives on implementing practical solutions as it applies to the commercial construction industry. Shawn Carvallo, Shawmut Design & Construction; Maureen Kirkpatrick, Turner Construction; David Argus, Karas & Karas Glass; Frank Callahan, MA Building Trades Council and Jeff Werner, N.E. Regional Council of Carpenters Benefits Funds presented examples of best practices which include widespread awareness and training, bolstered wellness services and preventive programs, new confidential and trusted resources, and a goal to eliminate any stigma that may suppress an employee or union member from seeking the help they deserve.

Tim Irving, assistant regional administrator for the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), closed the presentation with the agency’s commitment to provide tools and resources to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths with a new 24/7 workplace challenge ensuring workers not only go home safe but return the next day healthy and productive.

The most impactful presentation of the morning was a poem, written by a recovered addict in time of personal despair, read by David Argus that focused attendees squarely on the plight of the individuals, families and friends who suffer daily from opioid addiction. Only through confidentiality, dignity and respect can the industry begin to prevent, treat and work toward recovery and mitigate the devastating impact on construction workers and their families.

AGC MA and a delegation of industry associations met on Jan. 31, 2019, with Massachusetts Health & Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders and Dr. Monica Bharel, MA DPH commissioner, to share the success of and best practices revealed at the Jan. 23 summit and offer the collective support of the entire construction industry to the Baker Administration on the issue.

Summit partners included: Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts (ASM), Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Building Trade Employers Association (BTEA), Construction Industries Association of MA (CIM), National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the Utility Contractors Association of NE (UCANE) with a portion of the program sponsored by Travelers Insurance.

As a follow up, AGC MA plans to implement an industry-wide, Job Site Opioid Stand-Down Day, coordinate access to resources for employers and employees through the AGC website, and launch an Opioid Awareness Program, made possible through a grant from the Massachusetts Construction Advancement Program (MCAP).

All proceeds of the program will be donated to the Grayken Institute.

As the leading commercial construction association in the commonwealth, AGC MA provides member benefits and business resources for the state’s building industry. The association offers valuable management education, exemplary safety training, and dedicated advocacy for our members and the industry at large, continually improving the quality, integrity and responsibilities to the general public and its surrounding communities. For more information visit


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Associated General Contractors of America
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