CHICAGO -- As opioid abuse ravages certain U.S. counties, retailers are pushing back to reclaim their stores, customers and employee safety from the jaws of the epidemic. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, according to preliminary research from The New York Times. Here’s how some retailers are reacting to this lethal consumer habit ...
Prioritize worker well-being
Last year, Dick Hiers, owner of Northeast Standard BP in Sheboygan, Wis., posted a sign outside his station with the words “Heroin kills. Help Wanted.” In the last nine months, Hiers has lost more than 100 customers to overdoses on opioids such as heroin, fentanyl and OxyContin. But the drug crisis in his community is even pushing away healthy guests. “Our sales are down considerably because people don’t want to come into an area with a lot of drugs,” Hiers says. “They don’t know what’s down the street from them.” To keep Hiers’ workers safe, the once 24-hour location now closes at 11 p.m. And at around 4 p.m., employees run the store out of a locked enclosure. The retailer also has invested in 16 security cameras.
Add a new training module
The United States is not the only country to fall victim to the opioid crisis. After several overdoses occurred on premise, one Canadian retailer now stocks naloxone kits, which reverse the effects of opioids. Samantha Ruttan, owner of three Shell stations in British Columbia, had 20 of her team members trained on how to administer the medicine. However, employees are required to call 911 and only intervene if they feel comfortable. “For example, if you give [the overdose victim] [Naloxone] they are going to come to and their high is going to be over,” she told local news publication Agassiz-Harrison Observer. “So, they are going to get pissed off, so it’s really important that as soon as you administer it that you back away from them and explain to them what is happening.”
Form committed partnerships
Hiers has struggled to find help addressing Sheboygan’s opioid problem. On one occasion, his employees called the police to respond to an overdosing customer. The officers gave the customer Naloxone, then gave him back his car keys. The customer drove himself home that same night.
Hiers has partnered with two addiction support groups and organized meetings at the station to bring community members and law enforcement together to help curb the crisis. Unfortunately, community interest in stopping the crisis has waned. “The general public doesn’t want to get involved,” he says.