Construction workers try to end stigma, offer help with opioid crisis

SE Mass

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The opioid crisis impacts people from all walks of life, but recent numbers show an alarming rise in overdoses among construction workers.

There’s an effort by the local construction industry to confront the problem.

The Building and Construction Trades Council held its third seminar Thursday to raise awareness about the issue and make sure workers are getting help.

In Massachusetts, state leaders revealed 24% of fatal opioid overdoses were construction workers.

The Rhode Island Department of Health said they haven’t broken down the numbers yet, but the stats are similar.

In response, Rhode Island building trade leaders have held seminars addressing the problem with unions and employers.

Dr. Lee Okurowski with the Occupational Environmental Health Center of Rhode Island said construction workers are susceptible to using opioids.

“[They] typically have to work oftentimes with harsh conditions with injuries and illnesses.” Dr. Okurowski said.

Trade council president Michael Sabitoni said workers often feel forced to work, even if they’re injured.

“If you’re not at work, you’re not getting paid, you’re not getting hours into your benefit fund, your pension fund. Everything we do is based on work hours so there’s a big pressure to make sure you maintain your hours,” said Sabitoni.

The industry leaders remain hopeful seminars like these can change the future.

John Sinnot with Gilbane Building Company added, “People are starting to talk about it and that’s the important part. It’s no longer that stuff you pushed away in the corner.”

The group said they take this information and communicate it with their employers.

For them, it’s all about getting rid of the stigma and making sure workers get any help they need.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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