Long Island Workforce Hit Hard By Opioid Crisis

By Beth Leipholtz 05/18/18

“The opioid epidemic is not only ruining the lives of young people and families on Long Island... but also our business community."

workers in a warehouse consulting each other

A recent report by Newsday explored the negative impact of the opioid crisis on the Long Island, New York workforce.

Jeffery Capazzi, president of the Jobin Organization construction company in Long Island, has witnessed what the epidemic has done to his own employees.

“We had certain people being sent to rehab,” he tells Newsday. “We’ve had people that we’ve lost through overdoses.”  

The American Action Forum found that nearly 1 million people ages 25 to 54 were not working due to opioid addiction.

Over the 16-year span between 1999 and 2015, the lack of employees cost the country’s economy about $44 billion annually, for a total of about $702 billion. 

When it comes to the opioid crisis and its relationship with the workforce, there are a number of concerns, Newsday reports. First, for companies that have lost employees to overdoses, it leaves a “traumatized workforce.”

It also affects productivity for companies, as well as creates communication issues because of the stigma around substance use disorders. 

In Long Island, officials have estimated that in 2017, 600 people on the island died of overdoses, Newsday notes. This is up from 555 deaths in 2016. 

Aoifa O’Donnell, chief executive of National EAP, a Hauppauge training and employee-services company, tells Newsday that it’s not just young people being affected. 

"It’s not just the teenagers, although on Long Island our kids are really being impacted terribly," she said. "It’s men in their 40s, women in their 40s. It doesn’t discriminate because it starts with a prescription.”

In October 2017, the Long Island Association co-sponsored a forum to bring attention to the workforce issues caused by the opioid epidemic.

“The opioid epidemic is not only ruining the lives of young people and families on Long Island and throughout the country but also our business community, where millions of dollars are lost in productivity,” Kevin Law, the Long Island Association’s president and chief executive, told Newsday.

The Long Island Community Foundation may co-fund a study that would focus on how the opioid epidemic is affecting Long Island’s economy.  

An additional challenge Long Island faces is that many of its companies are small. According to Newsday, 90% of its 97,400 businesses have no more than 20 employees. This means that the companies may be less equipped to help employees receive treatment. 

For some Long Island business owners, like Greg Demetriou of Lorraine Gregory Communications, speaking about the epidemic is vital in order to change the growing issues. 

“I do everything I can to mention it, to talk about it,” Demetriou said. “I don’t know the mentality of business owners who don’t want to speak about it... If we don’t get the coordination and the help from the business community, we will never be successful in the fight.”  

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.