Federal agencies Drugs Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Preventing opioid misuse: New guide for employers in rural areas

Photo: sdominick/iStockphoto

Washington — Aiming to assist rural communities in the fight against opioid misuse, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a guide for employers.

The guide cites a 2017 survey commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union that found 74% of farmers and farm workers have been directly affected by the opioid crisis. Further, 77% of the respondents said it’s easy to obtain “a large amount” of opioids or other painkillers in their community without a prescription.

“Workplace safety is the highest priority for employers,” the guide states. “Workers under the influence can jeopardize that commitment, presenting danger to themselves and others. Employers must maintain adequate staff to operate a business and may not have the luxury of giving struggling personnel time to fully recover from [a substance misuse disorder].


Noting that workers in recovery from a substance misuse disorder warrant an “opportunity to show that he or she can be accountable and productive in the workplace and maintain his or her sobriety,” the guide suggests that employers consider increasing employment opportunities among that worker segment by:

  • Investing in training to help recognize the signs and symptoms of substance misuse disorders, which often vary by individual
  • Promoting recovery-friendly workplace initiatives that encourage healthy lifestyles
  • Supporting second-chance initiatives
  • Developing a fuller understanding of the specifics of addiction recovery
  • Partnering with stakeholders to develop career development, peer support and mentoring, and other “work ready” programs

“The crisis of addiction has impacted thousands of families across rural America and has taken a monumental toll on countless communities,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a Jan. 31 press release. “USDA continues to partner with community leaders to address this epidemic and encourage individuals to utilize the action steps and recommended practices included in the Rural Community Action Guide.”

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