Behind the Headlines
Why Mark Steele and Larry Jutte are fighting opioid addiction
Week of June 24, 2019
Mark Steele and Larry Jutte know first-hand the personal and business devastation caused by the nation’s opioid addiction crisis. Steele, the CEO of Craftsmen Industries, a St. Louis-based manufacturer of specialty marketing vehicles for the event and promotion industry, has attended funerals for family members of two employees who died from opioid overdoses in the last year.
Larry Jutte, a long-time manufacturing executive in the auto industry who is a founder and chairs Direct Scripts, also sees the damage in his business and personal life. His manufacturing facilities struggle with the crisis, while his neighbors cope with the loss of their son to opioid addiction.
Declared a public health crisis in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the opioid epidemic claims an estimated 130 lives a day as a result of more than 11.4 million Americans misusing prescription opioids. Whether due to injuries from the often physically intense, repetitive nature of their jobs or from stress stemming from other causes, a large number of industrial workers and former industrial workers suffer from opioid abuse, and Mark Steele and Larry Jutte are making an effort to help.
At the IndEx 2019 conference in May in Miami Beach, Larry Jutte and his firm made an offer to attendees, all of whom wore high-tech name badges that tied to the conference app and permitted electronic “business-card” sharing. Jutte said that Direct Scripts would make a $2,500 donation to the Kraft Center for Community Health at Massachusetts General Hospital in the name of the Industrial Exchange member company at the conference whose representative was one of the top networkers using the app. In addition, Direct Scripts would make a matching $2,500 donation to the Kraft Center, which works with local leaders to combat opioid addiction through innovative programs like the CareZone mobile van service that delivers addiction treatment services to disadvantaged communities.
Mark Steele and Craftsmen Industries won the contest, and the $5,000 from Larry Jutte and Direct Scripts is on its way to the Kraft Center. “As a company, we can lament society’s problems or we can do something about them,” said Steele, explaining his motivation for getting involved in addressing the opioid crisis.
“I’m a strong believer in showing that you care, and at Craftsmen, our efforts to deal with the opioid crisis are part of our broader commitment to wellness. If one of our employees appears to be under the influence of something, we encourage self-referral to wellness programs; we don’t use drug testing as a punitive measure,” he said.
“But our employees also have to look after one another. We work with a lot of heavy equipment that can fall, which poses a risk to the individual who’s impaired as well as to others. So if you care, you also have to intervene. We believe as a team of associates that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in the context of safety and wellness,” Steele said.
Neither Steele nor Jutte profess to have a solution to the crisis, but they believe that education, prevention and intervention are critical. “Businesses can educate about the dangers of taking opioids for pain relief in the first place,” Steele said, “and we show that we care when we intervene to change an outcome.”
Jutte, who hopes that research will one day find a way to “unwire” opioids’ addictive effect on the brain, says that awareness is essential to combatting the problem today, and will lead to a solution in the future. “It’s a problem that affects everyone — rich and poor, urban and rural, and every race,” he said.
Industrial Exchange is committed to addressing the opioid crisis, and we encourage network members to find out more about the Kraft Center for Community Health and consider a donation.