Chamber Talks Workforce Needs, Impact of Opioid Addiction as 2018 Legislative Session Begins

As the 2018 General Assembly gets underway, the Indiana Chamber is highlighting three big issues expected to be debated in the coming days and weeks: workforce needs, the opioid crisis and smoking rates.

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar says, “We’ve done so well recently from an employment standpoint that we’ve almost outstripped our ability to hire skilled workers since unemployment is so low in the state.

“It’s clear we need to raise up the skills of those who are here, but the Indiana Chamber is also suggesting that perhaps we need to pursue a parallel strategy of recruiting people from out of state. Talent is more mobile than ever before and once people gethere, they really appreciate our cost of living.”

But make no mistake, Brinegar stresses, the state’s priority should be on the potential talent pool at home. That means some major changes will need to occur – ones that hopefully start in the new legislative session.
“What we’ve been doing wrong is saying, ‘Here is our program, you come use it and we hope that it will solve your needs.’ Instead, there should be a conscious effort to truly listen to employers and then develop training programs that are demand-driven to what the needs of the marketplace are now.”

Many of those jobs today and down the road are in the middle skills area – skills that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year bachelor’s degree. Brinegar states this should be a focus for both Hoosier workers who need to improve their skillset and young students.

“We know from our member companies that they are reaching down to high schools and even middle schools to explore with students what job opportunities there are with their companies, what skills they need to have, what classes they need to take in high school to be eligible to take those jobs. It’s becoming a lot more focused on getting people ready with some specificity for jobs after high school.

“There will always be the need for a number of jobs requiring a four-year degree or more, but the real growth is in show me what you know, show me what you can do, show me what machinery you can operate. That’s the mindset we need to have to transform some of these government silos … along with listening to employers and creating programs that communicate to young people what those job needs are.”

Additionally, the Indiana Chamber is partnering with the Governor’s office and the state’s drug czar, Jim McClelland, to be the source for the business component of the state’s plan to combat the opioid crisis.

“We will be researching on best practices, disseminating information to employers and putting on training programs. I’ve told the Governor’s office that we want to be part of the effort and part of the solution. It’s a big problem and it’s not going to be solved overnight, but this has become an employer problem in addition to a personal and societal problem,” Brinegar offers.

“We’ve rapidly gotten to the point to where employers almost can’t fire somebody for failing a drug test because there isn’t the depth in the workforce to tap into for new workers. Employers are looking for guidance. They want more information on what they can do, how they can train supervisors to recognize signs and know where the effective treatment programs are.”

The Indiana Chamber, a founding member of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, would like the same urgency placed on reducing the state’s smoking rates.

“There are 10 times more people dying from smoking-related illnesses every year than opioids. And it’s the most preventable source of disease,” Brinegar notes.

“We need to improve our health metrics, including obesity, which are in the bottom third of the states. I rarely accept average for anything, but if Indiana rose to be just average when it comes to smoking, that would significantly curb health issues and save those individuals and businesses a lot of money on insurance coverage and health care costs.”

Indiana’s current smoking rate is at 21% of the population; the national average is 15%.

Enhanced workforce efforts and reducing the state’s smoking rates are among the Indiana Chamber’s Top 9 legislative priorities for 2018. The full list is available at www.indianachamber.com/priorities.

Management Performance Hub Picks Up Speed

The Indiana Chamber has been a key advocate for Indiana’s Management and Performance Hub (MPH) by recently supporting legislation to codify and fund it so it can achieve more.

MPH is a data hub that can link and aggregate state agency datasets with other data to help improve the performance and outcomes on many issues, including education/workforce, the opioid crisis and traffic safety. Think of it as a depot, where data can be assembled and studied to further outcomes and make better data-driven decisions.

Beyond improving state government performance and enhancing transparency, there is the ability to provide useful information to external partners including researchers, the business community and not-for-profit organizations. There will be an external-facing component of MPH to determine protocol on how this information can be utilized for maximum benefit.

The Indiana Chamber is a member of an advisory group to review guidelines and policies being established by MPH. We are also part of the Indiana Open Data Council to provide advice and guidance as MPH evolves; this includes the state and researcher and community advisors to help further MPH’s goals, scale innovation and increase utilization of the MPH.

For more information about the latest with the MPH, read its newsletter.

National Emergency Declared for Opioid Crisis; Donnelly and Walorski Applaud President’s Action

Building upon the recommendations in the interim report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Trump recently instructed his administration “to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”

Both Sen. Joe Donnelly and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) issued statements supporting the decision:

“I am pleased that President Trump plans to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency. We know that it will take all of us working together to effectively turn the tide against this public health crisis that has harmed so many families in Indiana and across the country,” Donnelly said. “I hope this declaration will lead to necessary, additional resources for states and local communities to ensure those battling substance use disorders can access treatment.”

Walorski stated: “Opioid abuse is having a devastating impact on our communities, and President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency treats this epidemic with the urgency it requires. I will continue working with my colleagues and the administration to make sure first responders, law enforcement, medical professionals, treatment providers and families in our communities have the tools and resources needed to solve this crisis.”

Congress last year passed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), bipartisan legislation to address the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Congresswoman Walorski served on the conference committee that negotiated the final bill, which included two provisions she authored. One requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to participate in state prescription drug monitoring programs, and the other allows the VA to use FDA-approved medical devices and other non-opioid therapies to treat chronic pain. Donnelly also helped enact CARA, which included several of his provisions. Additionally, Donnelly helped pass the 21st Century Cures Act into law, which includes a $10.9 million federal grant that will support prevention, treatment and recovery services in Indiana.

More recently, in late July, Donnelly introduced a bipartisan package of legislation “aimed at providing the facilities and access to telemedicine needed “to prevent and treat substance use disorder in rural communities.”

Recent News from Washington

  • Per last Thursday’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Indiana has been selected for a $10.9 million federal grant to fight the state’s opioid abuse epidemic. Senator Donnelly talked about this needed boost during a visit to Granger. Read the story. Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) also weighed in: “… Indiana is getting the resources it desperately needs to reduce overdose deaths; help Hoosiers get treatment for substance abuse and stay in recovery; and reduce the over-prescription of opioids.” Read Brooks’ full statement.
  • Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) believes Congress should exert influence by authorizing military force against ISIS. He said, “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent use of chemical weapons against his own people is a grim reminder of the deep challenges that continue to exist in Syria and the surrounding region.” Read his op-ed.
  • Congressman André Carson (IN-07), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was on CNN last Wednesday talking about the situations with North Korea and Syria. Of North Korea, he said our country’s “tough talk has to get tougher”. Watch the over six-minute interview.

Donnelly Talks Policy to Chamber Group

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly discussed a wide variety of issues with members of the Indiana Chamber’s Executive Committee during an hour-long visit last week. Among his comments on the issues before Congress:

  • Opioid crisis: Senators are working on a federal law that would limit painkiller prescriptions to one week (hopefully reducing addictive outcomes)
  • Transportation infrastructure: There will be a big bill and he believes it will pass as long as it gets paid for
  • Tax reform: Stuck for now because money to pay for it was going to come from the failed health care overhaul
  • Health care bill: Legislation can’t be passed that would result in fewer people having insurance coverage. Democrats, Donnelly noted, have ideas that should be considered

Other topics of conversion: immigration, trade agreements and global threats (Donnelly is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee).