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McConnell announces bill focused on combating opioid epidemic among nation’s workforce

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced another piece of legislation on Tuesday to help combat the opioid crisis in Kentucky and the rest of the country.

“Today I am proud to announce legislation to address this crisis’ devastating effects on the American worker and the American workforce,” McConnell said. “Stable employment is not just a path to financial security for workers and families, earning a paycheck from a job is also linked to personal happiness and even physical health.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented legislation to battle the ravages the opioid crisis has had on the workforce in Kentucky and other states. (McConnell office file photo)

McConnell said in communities where employment can do so much, the opioid crisis itself is making it harder to attain, with Kentucky employers telling him substance abuse is a “major hurdle” to finding and hiring suitable employees.

One study estimated that about 25 percent of the decline in workforce participation between 1999 and 2015 could be traced “to aspects of the opioid crisis,” which translates to about 1 million workers. The Trump administration recently reported that the epidemic cost the economy half a trillion dollars in 2015, McConnell’s office said. “That economic cost pales in comparison to the human cost that addiction and joblessness inflict,” he said.

The Comprehensive Addiction Recovery through Effective Employment and Re-entry or CAREER Act would begin to target relief to states most devastated by substance abuse, according to McConnell. “This state-based pilot program would have local businesses and treatment groups to form partnerships to help those in recovery find and maintain employment,” he told his colleagues.

Provisions include more affordable housing block grants to encourage more transitional housing options for recovering addicts until they secure permanent arrangements. It also gives states more flexibility to spend federal career services and training funds to support initiatives dedicated to helping individuals transition from treatment to the workforce.

“In short, this bill does exactly what the experts tell us needs to be done on this front,” McConnell said.

While the Health Committee is reviewing comprehensive opioid legislation, McConnell says he hopes provisions in his two bills are included in the package they are developing. “This epidemic requires our continued attention,” he said, “On behalf of those in Kentucky and all over the country who are struggling, we’re determined to keep doing our part.”

“Last week I introduced the Protecting Moms and Infants Act to confront the heartbreaking cases of pre-natal and infant opioid addiction,” he said in a floor speech.

The Louisville Republican pointed out the recent government funding bill dedicated a record level of resources to saving lives from heroin and prescription drug abuse, but more needs to be done.

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