Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Hosts “Tools to Navigate the Opioid Crisis”

Panel Discussion Co-Hosted by the Blount Partnership

Bradley Jackson, the president & CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Friday hosted a regional event focused on engaging the East Tennessee business community about the impact of opioid abuse. The Tennessee Chamber partnered with the Blount Partnership, the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, the Anderson County Chamber, the Oak Ridge Chamber, and others to host a breakfast and panel discussion today, featuring local leaders in the recovery, healthcare, and criminal justice system. The event was also sponsored by the University of Tennessee Medical Center and ReVIDA Recovery Centers.

You can find a recording of the event on the Tennessee Chamber’s Facebook page.

Business representatives, employers, and human resource managers attended the breakfast, asked questions, and connected with local resources. The Maryville event is the fourth and final leg of a statewide tour and the launch of the chamber’s opioid toolkit. This toolkit and regional meetings partnering with local chambers of commerce provides resources and information for employers and communities to identify and manage the significant problems with substance use disorder, prevent substance use, and improve and promote safety in the workplace and in communities at large.

The event began with remarks by Bradley Jackson of the Tennessee Chamber, followed by opening remarks from ReVIDA Recovery Chief Clinical Officer Zac Talbott and a keynote address from Dr. JJ Janoyan, DO, MBA, SFHM, CPE, of UT Medical Center. The event also included a conversation with Kingsport Chamber CEO Miles Burdine and Jason Pritchard, a recovery program manager with Ballad Health. The panel discussion, moderated by Blount Partnership President & CEO Bryan Daniels, featured Angelee Murray of ReVIDA Recovery, Eric Ebbert of Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones, and Scott Elam of Wright Brothers Construction.

The opioid epidemic has taken a devastating toll on the state of Tennessee. In 2018, 1,827 people in Tennessee died of an overdose, the deadliest year on record according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Forty-seven of those deaths occurred in Blount County alone, as reported by the Maryville Daily Times. According to a policy research group at the University of Tennessee, the opioid epidemic annually costs Tennesseans over $2 billion as of 2017, largely due to lost income of people who have left the labor market due to a substance use disorder.

Below is a transcript of remarks by Bradley Jackson, President & CEO of the Tennessee Chamber:

“Hello everyone, thank you so much for joining us here today in Maryville. My name is Bradley Jackson, and I am the President and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. I want to thank Bryan Daniels and the Blount Partnership as well as the Knoxville Chamber, the Anderson County Chamber, the Oak Ridge Chamber, and our other partner chambers for co-hosting this event, as well as our sponsors, UT Medical Center and ReVIDA Recovery Centers, and participating organizations such as United Way for taking the time to address this important topic.

As the voice of the statewide business community, the Tennessee Chamber is proud to host this event, “Tools to Navigate the Opioid Crisis.” For those of you who are not as familiar with the Tennessee Chamber, we advocate on behalf of businesses and manufacturers across the state of Tennessee to create a successful and thriving business environment for our state.

We have full-time legislative experts in the areas of tax and public finance, workforce and education, environment and energy regulations, economic development, small business and technology, and labor relations, civil justice, healthcare and workplace safety.

Our members employ hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans. We understand the responsibility that comes with tens of thousands of Tennessee families earning their livelihood from our members and we are serious in our role as good stewards. We understand that when Tennessee businesses and manufacturers succeed, our entire state succeeds.

Today, Tennessee is experiencing record-low unemployment and record-breaking growth. In the last decade, the Tennessee economy has created almost half a million jobs, and businesses of all sizes are relocating to and expanding in Tennessee to take advantage of our business-friendly climate.

However, employers in all parts of the state face increasing challenges in light of the opioid crisis. The opioid epidemic has taken a deep toll on our state. We all know a friend, family member, neighbor or colleague who has struggled with opioid use disorder. But this epidemic is not just a threat to public health. The opioid crisis is a threat to Tennessee’s business and manufacturing community.

Employers and job recruiters are increasingly struggling to recruit and retain a drug-free workforce. According to a study by the University of Tennessee, our state has lost $2 billion due to the opioid epidemic, a large part due to lost wages of those who have left the workforce due to opioid use disorder.

HR managers who oversee multiple employees might worry if members of their company struggle with an addiction of their own, or that of a loved one. Employers may be interested in finding more preventive and recovery resources, but have nowhere to turn to for answers.

The Tennessee Chamber understands that in order to remain competitive, increase productivity, and reduce liability, our employers and business owners must respond to this crisis.

We’ve created an opioid toolkit to provide a one stop shop for policies and resources. We’ve also convened here today to answer any questions you may have about what resources to connect to in Maryville and across East Tennessee.

We hope to provide guidance on any questions or concerns you may have regarding drug tests, hiring practices, recovery courts, health insurance policies, and other issues you face on a daily basis. The Tennessee Chamber is committed to the businesses and manufacturers of our state, and we are proud to lead this discussion on how to navigate the opioid epidemic.”

Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry is the unified voice of business and premier advocacy organization in the state. The Tennessee Chamber serves as the State Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Manufacturers Association, the state affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Chemistry Council. The Tennessee Chamber creates prosperity for all Tennesseans through an economy of increased productivity and global competitiveness. Find out more at www.tnchamber.org