Opioids & Construction: Why it Matters and What You Can Do

A construction centered initiative to address the opioid crisis

The opioid crisis has had a devastating impact in Rhode Island and in Rhode Island’s construction industry in particular. There is not a single Rhode Island community that hasn’t been affected by an opioid overdose fatality. 1 in 5 of those overdose deaths were individuals who work in construction.

In partnership with the Rhode Island Building & Construction Trades Council and with industry leaders, Building Futures is launching a response to train leaders, administrators, and both incumbent and prospective construction workers in addressing opioid dependency in the industry. The training focuses on three core principles:

Prevention:

  • Create an injury prevention strategy appropriate to the personal and professional lives of construction and trades workers
  • Support individuals in having active conversations with healthcare professionals, so, in cases where opioids are appropriate to pain management, they can be used safely

Support:

  • Build skills and expertise in approaching difficult conversations with family, friends, and co-workers about addiction
  • Create a recovery friendly environment both in the workplace and after-work

Rescue:

  • Learn how to access and administer Naloxone (brand name Narcan) in the case of an overdose
  • Learn rescue breathing basics

Implementation

The building trades have a unique infrastructure that is readymade to transmit vital, potentially life-saving information to incumbent workers through the joint apprenticeship programs and journeyworker trainings. Building Futures will also reach workforce entrants in low-income high impact communities through its pre-apprenticeship classes.

Trainer Expertise

The workshop was crafted over a six months period by Jill Sypole, LCSW, Health Initiatives Manager at Building Futures in consultation with recovery community experts and individuals with a lived experience of recovery both in and out of construction. Ms. Sypole has been working closely with the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals and with community partners.  This initiative was made possible through a U.S. Department of Labor grant passed through the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.

Crossover Workforce Development

As part of the workforce response to the opioid crisis, Building Futures is also expanding the use of Registered Apprenticeship, through its initiative Apprenticeship Rhode Island, to develop skilled professionals on the frontlines of this epidemic. From community health workers to case managers and peer recovery specialists, apprenticeship programs build the skills and expertise needed to provide individuals a pathway to recovery and employment.