Submitted by Wendy Russell, Maher & Maher

Employers, faced with the impact of drug use on their bottom line, and the effect of drug abuse on their employees, are making the connection and adopting new approaches.  They are heeding the advice of addiction specialists who advise that employment aides the recovery process. They are stepping up and, with the help of local and national media, broadcasting examples that are working.

Belden Wire Company, Richmond, IN, is one such company.  As an incentive to attract much-needed skilled workers, they offer drug treatment, paid for by the company, to job applicants who fail the drug screen. Those who complete treatment are promised a job. A unique distinction—Belden is not just paying for its current employees’ drug treatment, but those who have yet to join the company. To date, 17 people have signed on by committing to therapy that can vary between 1-4 months. The program is also serving current employees who fail random drug tests.

DV8 Restaurant’s, Lexington, KY, business model focuses on recovery, using the restaurant setting as a tool for rehabilitation. When owners Rob and Diane Perez realized they had lost 13 employees to addiction over 10 years, they took a different approach.

Restaurant culture is known for free-flowing alcohol and drugs. Handy cash from tips make for easy drug purchases. Late nights, rather than early morning, start times make for carefree lifestyles.

Perez, a recovering alcoholic himself, saw the huge potential in restaurants as places of recovery with multiple career pathways built right in. “There’s customer service, culinary, baking, finances. We can teach any of these businesses from scratch.”

They hire from and work directly with treatment centers. In order to support their recovery, new employees are held to exacting standards—there is no bar or alcohol service, zero-tolerance on tardiness, tips are pooled and added directly to paychecks so no cash is exchanged. They do not offer dinner, allowing employees—18 out of 23 in active recovery—to attend support meetings.

Ziegenfelder, Wheeling, WVA provides an addiction counselor on-site to help employees in recovery from addiction make a smooth re-entry to the workforce.  CEO, Lisa Allen takes the stance that “businesses need to step up to the plate and participate in changing our environment.” We take measures to avoid drug-related hazards, while offering assistance, instead of punishment to employees who struggle with addiction. Several of their employees are on probation for drug offenses and live at the local halfway house. The company has become a “force for change in the community by giving people another chance.”

Finally, Working Partners, a consulting company in Columbus, OH, is working with companies to help them implement drug-free and recovery-friendly workplaces. Their mantra:  companies should protect themselves, but also offer a helping hand.  “Not only is it the right thing to do,” says CEO Dee Mason, but it provides economic benefits.  “People offered a life ring will be the most loyal employees.”

She offers five elements of a good recovery-friendly workplace:

  • A legal document outlining detailed procedures
  • A drug safety education program for employees
  • Training for supervisors to detect signs of addiction
  • A drug-testing system
  • An Employee Assistance Program when treatment is needed
Employers are finding they can be part of the solution to the opioid crises.  They can serve a dual purpose:  as a business and a recovery setting.