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The drug and opioid crisis is something very important that the IBEW cares about shedding light on. The U.S. has over 70,000 overdoses and 47,000 deaths per year. These figures have doubled over the last decade.

Unfortunately, the construction industry is the leading occupation for opioid overdose deaths. Not only is the work in this field hard, but also it’s hard on the body. When members seek medical help for something simple, like back pain they can’t be prescribed bottles of opioids as their only treatment. After time, immunity is built and that can lead to addiction. Instead, wellness programs, less harmful drugs like Advil or Tylenol, physical therapy, and rest should be prescribed.

There is an opioid task force within the trades with Mike Richard, Director of Construction and Maintenance serving on the committee, as well as representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield and Save-Rx. Other building and trade presidents are working on a plan to help members with addiction. Attorneys are on the task force. They have developed recommended language for IBEW members to take to their local trustees to let doctors know prescribing opioids for chronic pain is no longer acceptable. In addition, a list is being compiled of vetted treatment centers across the U.S. and Canada that provide responsible, effective care to patients.

Work must be done now to remove the stigma society places on people battling addiction. This is a human issue, and it’s important to support fellow brothers and sister who might be struggling. This is just as critical as everything else we’re doing in our union. We have to turn the tide on this, and the IBEW is working on it.

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Lonnie Stephenson

IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson has been working with the IBEW Hour Power team since he was elected International President in 2015. President Stephenson creates short videos entitled “President’s Message” to bring important announcements and inspirational messages right to your computer screen.

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