Ask the expert: How is opioid abuse impacting workplaces in Wisconsin?

The troubling issue of opioid abuse in America is not specific to any region in the country. It affects all of us, whether directly or indirectly. However, there are some specific numbers detailing the impact in Wisconsin.

Sue Wilhelm, director of pharmacy services at Security Health Plan

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, more people in the state died from prescription opioid overdose in 2015 than from car crashes. The Workers Compensation Research Institute found 80 percent of worker compensation claims in Wisconsin involve pain medication.

Add to that the fact that a recent study from health information firm Castlight Health indicates employers paid for a third of the opioid prescriptions that were eventually abused. The same study estimates employers are losing $18 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses each year.

No one can deny that opioid addiction is hurting Wisconsin employers. For this reason, Security Health Plan strives to support communities across the state in their efforts to curb the abuse and misuse of prescription medication. We’ve made $150,000 in Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Grants available to qualified programs. Read more about that on the Focus on Marshfield website.

Security Health Plan wants to help communities reverse the frightening epidemic, improve the health and safety of our communities, and relieve the financial strain opioid abuse puts on health systems.

Security Health Plan is proud to be part of the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans’ statewide initiative to combat the opioid epidemic. Beginning in April 2017, participants are committing to principles that include …

  • Tracking morphine equivalent dose and first-time user trends for individual and employer group members.
  • Working with provider partners on strategies to reduce and control opioid level of opioid prescribing in Wisconsin.
  • Sharing methodology and best practices to the quality of pain management surrounding opioids.
  • Ensuring that members struggling with opioid abuse have access to medically-appropriate treatment options.

There are also steps Wisconsin employers can take to combat opioid abuse in the workplace. Visit to discover five steps you can implement at your business.