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Boston Building Trades Recovery Week Increases Awareness of Substance Abuse Disorder

May 15, 2019

Thomas S. Gunning, III, speaking at one of the stand-downs.“The construction industry has been battered by the opioid crisis…[In Massachusetts] we lose 150 workers out of every 100,000 to this epidemic, and it’s unacceptable,” said Thomas S. Gunning, III., director of labor relations for SMACNA Boston and the Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA), in an editorial in the Boston Herald.

The article was part of a larger media campaign announcing the first ever Building Trades for Recovery Week from April 29 – May 3 (The week was officially proclaimed by the City of Boston and Mayor Marty Walsh.)

Mayor Marty Walsh with Thomas S. Gunning, IIIThe BTEA and SMACNA Boston wanted to start a conversation and reduce the stigma surrounding opioid addiction. To support this effort, they sponsored a week-long conference with educational training and speakers.

The conference kicked off with remarks by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and former professional basketball player Chris Herren, who discussed his experience as an elite athlete in recovery. The agenda covered the following topics:

  • Narcan Training with the Boston Public Health Commission

  • How Addiction Works in the Brain

  • High Times: Navigating a Drug Free Workplace in the Age of Marijuana

  • Reasonable Suspicion Training

  • Mental Health: Eliminating the Stigma

In addition, SMACNA Board member Jim Morgan, president of Worcester Air, participated in a labor management panel on substance abuse and recovery. He discussed the benefits of a drug testing program and his efforts as an employer to keep track of his employees’ health. Members of the BTEA and Ironworkers Local #7 were included on this panel as well.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

One of the goals of the week was to create a platform of resources for contractors and unions. Members are invited to view the presentations and download resources on the Building Trades Recovery Week website.

The week culminated in two 150 second stand-downs on two jobsites to honor the 150 workers out of every 100,000 lost to addiction in Massachusetts. “It was pretty moving,” said Gunning, “and we will use this to try to keep the momentum going.”

Related Media Coverage:

Building Trades targeting addiction, The Boston Globe

Tom S. Gunning recaps the Building Trades for Recovery Week, High Profile Monthly's Build Better Podcast

Boston construction industry makes push to curb opioid crisis, WCVB News