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Field Education Office Professional Development Workshop

BSW Cording & MSW Hooding

Feb. 19, 2018

The opioid epidemic is a critical issue facing South Carolina and the nation. According to College of Social Work professor Christina Andrews, Ph.D., the United States is losing more people now to opioid overdose than at the height of the AIDS epidemic. On Thursday, Feb. 15, Andrews shared her concerns, suggestions and possible solutions in front of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington.

Andrews, a leading researcher on opioid misuse, was one of four individuals and the sole witness on behalfAndrews Christine 17 of the democrats to provide oral testimony and answer questions at the hearing, “Opioid Epidemic: Implications for America’s Workplaces,” before the Committee on Education and the Workforce.   

“A staffer for the committee contacted me and said she had been reading my work and some of the papers I had written about Medicaid expansion, the opioid epidemic, and my article in the New England Journal of Medicine on how a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could negatively affect the nation’s capacity to respond to the opioid epidemic,” said Andrews.

Testifying for approximately two hours, Andrews discussed how opioid misuse is impairing employer’s ability to hire and retain qualified workers. She cited a July 12, 2017 report from the Federal Reserve Bank’s Beige Book, a summary of regional economic conditions, indicating a strong link between opioids and labor force participation. Andrews also referenced Princeton University economist Alan Krueger’s study that 50 percent of unemployed adults age 25 to 54 reported to take pain medication on a regular basis. In addition, she cited a National Safety Council survey, which found 70 percent of employers reported negative consequences of opioid use, including absenteeism and drug use on the job. Andrews stated the most effective strategy to address the challenges is expansion of treatment.

“It was a great opportunity, but I think this committee was really interested in ensuring the important role the ACA has played in addressing the opioid epidemic, particularly in providing a set of tools for states to enable them to cover more people and pay for evidence-based treatment,” said Andrews. “It was something they really wanted to put at the forefront of the conversation.”

Andrews believes there is bipartisan agreement that the opioid epidemic is an important issue. But the question remains, “Will the U.S. Congress act on the suggestions and possible solutions from Thursday’s hearing?”

“The questions I received provided an opportunity to cover some of the key aspects of my research, such as addressing the opioid epidemic, parity legislation, Medicaid expansion and the effectiveness of medication assisted treatment,” said Andrews. “Only time will tell if the suggestions I made are heard across both sides of the aisle.”

Video: “Opioid Epidemic: Implications for America’s Workplaces” – Feb. 15, 2018

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