When we initially came up with the idea to host a first-ever Building Trades Recovery Week, we knew we were doing something historic — taking on a crisis that many have shied away from and few industries have addressed publicly. But we knew we had to step forward.
We must shine a light on this epidemic, which disproportionately affects the construction industry. Our workers are six times more likely to die from opioid overdose than any others in Massachusetts; 150 workers per 100,000 die from overdoses annually.
It’s important to let our peers know that it’s OK to ask for help. Addiction can happen to anyone — any worker, any family, and on any worksite. Construction is one of the most dangerous jobs, and many are prescribed prescription painkillers to cope with injury and everyday wear and tear. Many are prescribed opiate painkillers and due to the addictive nature of the medication, many find themselves struggling to cease usage after the injury subsides.
Addiction can leave a person feeling ashamed and helpless. So it’s crucial to show those workers that there are great lives — and careers — ahead of them once they get treatment.
We were overwhelmed with the positive response that Recovery Week received from across the industry. Sponsors from more than 12 New England contractor associations and 13 trades came together in solidarity with their workers. Together we worked to increase awareness and understanding of substance use and abuse, educate participants on how to recognize substance use on the job-site, reduce the stigma surrounding the opioid crisis and encourage workers to seek help when needed.
Forward-thinking contractors such as Karas & Karas Glass, Lee Kennedy Co, McCusker Gill, and Worcester Air Conditioning have committed to solutions – such as keeping Narcan on hand, in their fabrication shops and on all their jobsites to save lives in the event of an overdose.
The conference featured a number of inspiring speakers, including Congressman Stephen Lynch, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Charlestown Rep. Daniel Ryan, former Celtics player Chris Herren, BTEA’s Director of Labor Relations, Thomas S. Gunning, Harvard/MGH’s Dr. Gregory Acampora, John MaGahan of the Gavin Foundation, Frank Callahan of the MBTC, President & CEO of Modern Assistance Programs John Christian, and many more — all who offered a unique perspective on the subject of opioids and substance use.
The week culminated in a 150-second job site stand down to honor the 150 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 workers in Massachusetts annually. At two large worksites: M Block in the Seaport District and Lee Kennedy’s HOOD plant project in Charlestown, hundreds of workers and contractors came together, supported by Mayor Martin J. Walsh and other allies.
The impact on workers’ lives was immediate. We couldn’t have imagined how many people we would touch and how quickly brave workers would step forward to acknowledge they have a problem and ask for help. For us, that is the true measure of success and we thank them.
We want to thank our sponsors and allies for helping to bring this conference to fruition.
By shining a spotlight on the opioid crisis, we are already changing, and saving, lives and we hope when we’re standing here next year during Recovery Week, we can say we made a real difference and gave someone a new beginning.BTEA Recovery Week Media Round Up