Second annual opioids conference March 24-25

St. Louis Labor leaders, business leaders, health care professionals and concerned community members are preparing for a second two-day conference on opioids and other issues in the workplace.

“A Workforce Under Stress: Challenges to Recruiting and Retaining Employees In a Tight Labor Market” will be held March 24-25 at the UMSL Millennium Student Center and focus on topics such as the impact addictive substances (opioids and more), work-life balance and mental health are having on the workforce, with a special look at how these issues relate to things like workers’ compensation.

“Help build a better Missouri by developing real-world strategies to combat these workplace problems that spill over into people’s everyday lives,” conference organizers said in a statement.

About 150 people attended a similar conference last year. This year’s version will expand into areas beyond addictions.

Topics and speakers on the first day include:

  • How Did We Get Here? – Dr. Fred Rottnek, director of community medicine and program director of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship at St. Louis University will discuss how addiction and mental issues are affecting Missouri’s workforce and look at other midwestern states as well.
  • What Is It Costing Us? – Dr. Gary Franklin, University of Washington (state) research professor and medical director for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, will use data including workers compensation costs to analyze the current situation.

Other topics are: “Tackling the Stigma of Addiction: Why It Matters, How It’s Done,” “How Employers Are Responding to the Stresses in the Workplace” and “Where Do We Go from Here?”

The second day will have workshops on the topics of work-life balance, recovery-friendly employment, challenges of addiction in immigrant communities and Christian Hospital Emergency Medical Services.

Groups supporting the conference are the Eastern Missouri Laborers’ District Council, Laborers Local 110, the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council, United Way of Greater St. Louis, Construction Forum St. Louis and the University of Missouri Extension.

The conference chairman is Doug Swanson, Labor and workforce development field specialist for the University of Missouri Extension. Planners include Don Willey, business manager, Laborers Local 110; John Gaal, retired director of training and workforce development for the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters District Council; Nick Dodson, United Way Labor liaison in southwestern Illinois; Shirley Farrah, assistant dean and lead nurse planner for University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing; Thom Pancella, associate director of the Center for Continuing Medical Education & Physician Lifelong Learning, University of Missouri Extension; and Sal Valadez, LIUNA Midwest Region Diversity, Outreach & Marketing representative.

Registration is at 7:30 a.m. on the 24th and 8 a.m. on the 25th. The cost is $100 for both days, or $50 for either day.

To register, go online to and type “a workforce under stress” onto the search line. That will give the event information and a “register” link.

Sponsorships are needed. To help sponsor the event, contact Pancella at the Center for Continuing Medical Education at 573-882-8792.


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