Two construction site stand downs in Boston on May 3 honored craft workers who died after opioid overdoses. As work stopped at the M Block Site in the Seaport District and the HOOD Plant Project in Charlestown, hundreds of workers observed a 150-second moment of silence to honor the 150 construction workers who die per 100,000 due to opioids, according to event organizers.
Corresponding with National Recovery Week, the stand downs marked the close of the first Building Trades for Recovery conference, organized by the Building Trades Employers' Association (BTEA). Construction workers are six times more likely to become addicted or die from opioid use disorders than workers in other industries, according to conference organizers.
The conference provided tools and resources for more than 25 unions, contractors and other organizations. The conference also included seminars, trainings and speaking programs, including a speech by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. Walsh, the former head of the Building and Construction Trades Council has been open about his own battle with alcohol addiction. “Construction workers should be leading the way in fighting back on stigma,” Walsh said at the Seaport District stand down, “to let people know it's okay to go for treatment, it's okay to let somebody know that there's a disease out there, and it's okay to admit that. It should start right here on this construction site and in the city of Boston, and we should lead the way for the rest of the country."
Conference organizers announced an initiative to encourage contractors to have Narcan on their construction sites. The nasal spray can prevent an overdose by blocking opioid receptors in the brain.
Lee Kennedy Construction Co., the contractor at the HOOD Plant project, has committed to carrying Narcan on all its job sites. The firm’s president and chief executive, Lee Kennedy, said five people die in Massachusetts every day from an opioid overdose – 2,000 annually. “We're trying to get awareness out there about a serious issue, a real crisis that is all across the country – particularly in Massachusetts,” he said. "The idea to put Narcan on the job sites is awesome, and I take great pride that the people on our team thought of it."
Conference speakers also included U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch, former Boston Celtics player Chris Herren, along with speakers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard. BTEA Director of Labor Relations Tom Gunning Jr. said, “If you're out there struggling, please tell someone in your union - your employer, your coworker, your family. Please come forward. We'll help you. We'll get you in rehab and get you back to work as soon as possible. I hope next year when we're standing here for Recovery Week, we can say we've made a difference and we've helped someone in the building trades make a new start.”