Opioids’ path of destruction in construction

Differences in health patterns among different population groups is a well-established fact. Indeed, it forms the foundation for an entire field of health research, epidemiology, which has contributed enormously to our understanding of the causes of disease.

But a new report from the state Department of Public Health documenting the astonishingly high rate of opioid overdose deaths in the construction industry landed like, well, a ton of bricks.

Over a five-year period, from 2011 to 2015, nearly one-quarter of all overdose deaths in the state occurred among those who work in construction. It’s an astounding figure, one that is both alarming but also suggests that a significant dent in the opioid crisis could be made through focused efforts in this sector.

The fishing industry also recorded significantly higher overdose death rates, though this sector accounts for only a tiny share of the state workforce.

The report suggests the high rates in construction may be consequence of a perfect storm of high occupational injury rates and a lack of job security that may lead workers to grit their way through pain with medication rather than take time off to recover.

As WBUR’s Martha Bebinger points out, though injuries leading to use of pain medication appear to be an important part of the story, the study could not determine the causal relationship between opioid use and the construction industry. It’s possible, she reports, that “opioid use caused an on-the-job injury in some cases.” It’s also possible, Dr. Zev Schuman-Olivier, medical director for addictions at the Cambridge Health Alliance, told the Boston Globe’s Felice Freyer, that people struggling with addiction or recovery may be more likely to go into construction.

Bebinger says the state Department of Industrial Accidents recently launched a pilot program examining treatment alternatives for those experiencing job-related injuries.

Missing from both the WBUR and Globe stories? Any reaction from the state’s construction industry. Whether employer practices within their industry account for all or only some of the problem, the bottom-line figure that a quarter of all opioid overdose deaths occur among workers in this sector should be a call to action to construction companies that this is a crisis they need to acknowledge and help address.

“Work-related injuries often serve as the initiation for opioid pain medication, which can subsequently lead to opioid misuse,” state Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said in a statement. “Ensuring that jobs are safe, that the risk of injury is low and that workers have the time for rehabilitation and are not self-medicating to keep working are all key to decreasing opioid overdose death among workers.”

MICHAEL JONAS

BEACON HILL

The Boston Carmen’s Union sued the MBTA, alleging the payroll system is so poorly managed and so prone to errors that employees have given up trying to recover money they are owed. According to the lawsuit, problems began surfacing after the T abandoned its payroll system and joined one run by the state. The T said it is not aware of any “widespread problems.” (CommonWealth)

Attorney General Maura Healey, in an op-ed for the Lowell Sun, explains her attempt to crackdown on student and underage use of vape pens.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen, after meeting with a woman who was fired by her employer after a drug test turned up evidence of marijuana in her blood system, said lawmakers may explore workplace protections for pot users. (Eagle-Tribune)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Haverhill is considering borrowing more than $1 million to finance infrastructure improvements to pave the way for a $30 million development proposed by developer Sal Lupoli, but some city councilors are wondering whether they can afford the deal. (Eagle-Tribune)

Dorchester Park is getting some goatscaping — goats brought in to eat up overgrowth and invasive plants such as poison ivy. (Dorchester Reporter)

A developer will pare back his planned over-55 housing project in Framingham after officials discovered a missing section of the zoning code that had been erroneously deleted that reduces the scope of what can be used to determine mandatory open space. (MetroWest Daily News)

Fall River officials have been able to ramp up their tax collections and reduce the number of tax title takings for delinquent payers in the last fiscal year. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Boston Beer founder Jim Koch gushes his appreciation to President Trump for the tax cut his company got, saying of his foreign competitors, “we’re going to kick their ass.” (Boston Herald)

The Trump administration announced new sanctions against Russia because of the attempted poisoning assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter now living in England. (New York Times)

US Rep. Chris Collins of New York, an early and vocal supporter of President Trump, was indicted on charges of insider trading by allegedly feeding information he obtained as a congressman to relatives to sell stock in an experimental drug before negative news emerged. The indictment has moved a reliably Republican seat into play for the November election. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Challenger Josh Zakim says the state’s elections are vulnerable to hacking; incumbent Secretary of State William Galvin, whose office oversees balloting in the Bay State, says nonsense. (Boston Globe)

Joyce Ferriabough Bolling says this week’s debate at UMass Boston revealed “major differences” in style and approach between US Rep. Michael Capuano and his Democratic primary challenger, Ayanna Pressley. (Boston Herald)

A Boston Herald editorial joins the chorus of calls for the state to move up its primary, suggesting mid-May as a good target.

Six of the 11 candidates vying for the Third Congressional District seat have put money of their own into their campaigns. (Boston Globe)

The six candidates for Suffolk County district attorney face questions from the Fraternal Order of Police at a forum at New England Law in Boston. (Boston Globe)

Joan Vennochi thinks Deval Patrick could outflank Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination derby. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Amrheins, the iconic South Boston outpost, and its adjacent parking lot are being put up for sale, with speculation that the property could fetch as much as $20 million. (Boston Globe)

Investment returns by foundations rose 15 percent in 2017, more than twice the previous year and the highest rate since 2013. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

ARTS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said its Oscar telecast will be limited to three hours in the future and also feature a new category “designed around achievement on popular film.” Many are wondering whether there will be a winner for best picture and a winner for best popular film. (Business Insider)

EDUCATION

Framingham State University is the latest public school to make SAT scores optional as a basis for admission, citing data that shows high school GPA is a better predictor of success and that minorities tend to score lower on the essay tests. (MetroWest Daily News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Dr. Michael Apkon, who currently heads a leading Canadian pediatric hospital, will become the new CEO of Tufts Medical Center. (Boston Globe)

The American Medical Association urged the US Justice Department to block the merger of CVS and Aetna.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

An investigation by the attorney general’s office concluded that a Braintree police officer acted alone in mishandling items in the department’s evidence room, where 60 firearms, more than $400,000, and more than 4,000 pieces of narcotics evidence went missing. The officer, Susan Zopatti, committed suicide in 2016 when news of the investigation first surfaced. (Boston Herald) A report by an outside investigator hired by the town says top Braintree police officials including the retired chief were partly at fault in the missing evidence scandal. (Patriot Ledger)

Mystery writer Joe Hill, the son of horror novelist Stephen King, claims the unidentified “Lady of the Dunes” whose body was found in Provincetown in 1974 fits the description of an extra seen in the movie Jaws. (Cape Cod Times)

TRANSPORTATION

As expected, New York City halted new vehicle licenses for ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft. Legislation passed by the City Council also directs the city to set minimum pay rates for drivers. (New York Times)

A piece of concrete fell on to a car on the second level of the MBTA’s Alewife garage, prompting a shutdown of that level to check whether additional repairs are needed. (Boston Herald)

Quincy officials want to reopen a pedestrian gate at the Quincy Adams Red Line stop, locked years ago over residents concerns about a parking crunch in the neighborhood behind the station, as a way to mitigate the loss of parking spaces when the MBTA closes down the station’s garage for repairs. (Patriot Ledger)

A parking space at 195 Beacon St. in Boston is available for $345,000, $30,000 below the original asking price. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

American chaffseed, a rare plant on the federal endangered list that hasn’t been seen in Massachusetts since 1965, has been found on Cape Cod, though officials won’t release the location to protect the plant from being picked. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

A new state-produced ad urges drivers not to drive stoned. Officials said there is no difference between being drunk and being stoned, but the yardstick for being stoned is a bit murkier. (State House News)

The Legislature has passed up a plan to generate more than $2 million in revenue by taxing sports fantasy businesses, but one gambling critic said that was just as well because such levies practically make the state a partner in such enterprises. (Boston Globe)

Middleboro selectmen voted to send a zoning proposal to a special Town Meeting allowing three retail marijuana stores but they also approved sending a question to ban the sale of recreational pot to Town Meeting even though a prohibition would require a town wide referendum. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA

Tribune Media pulled out of a planned $3.9 billion merger with Sinclair Broadcast Group to create a conservative media giant and says it plans to sue Sinclair for $1 billion, charging breach of contract over failed negotiations with the FCC to overcome the agency’s opposition. (Washington Post)

The New York Times released flat earnings for the second quarter, reporting growth in digital subscriptions but a decline in advertising revenue.