Legislation Drugs

House passes bill that would create advisory committee on opioids in the workforce

Image: PamelaJoeMcFarlane/iStockphoto

Washington — The House on June 13 passed a series of opioid-related legislation, including a unanimously approved bill that would establish a committee to advise Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta on ways the Department of Labor could help combat opioid misuse and addiction in the workforce.

Introduced by Reps. Jason Lewis (R-MN) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA) on May 21, the bill (HR 5892) would direct the secretary of labor to appoint 19 members to an advisory group. According to a fact sheet on the bill, members would include employers, employees, workplace safety experts, human resources professionals, medical doctors, licensed therapists, academic researchers, state and local officials, and other experts.

The Advisory Committee on Opioids in the Workplace would:

  • Discuss opioid abuse and its impact on employer substance abuse policies, employer-provided benefits, workplace safety, productivity and absenteeism, alternative pain management treatments, employee privacy, community-based initiatives, and workplace policies to reduce the stigma of opioid abuse.
  • Issue a report covering successful programs and best practices for employers to engage with employees affected by opioid abuse.

On June 13, Lewis tweeted that he appreciated the opportunity to work with Cartwright “to help address the harmful effects of opioid abuse in the workplace and take proactive steps to see what actions employers can take to address affected employees.”

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, also voiced her support. “I want to thank and commend members of the Committee on Education and the Workforce for leaving no stone unturned as we work to make healing possible to all the victims of this scourge of addiction – not only those who are struggling with opioid abuse,” Foxx said in a June 13 press release.

The proposed legislation comes two months after a coalition of 42 organizations sent a letter to Acosta expressing concern about “recent reports that the Department of Labor is stalling, disbanding and allowing the lapse of several critical federal advisory committees” within OSHA.

At press time, the Senate had not yet voted on the bill.

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