Lumberyard Helps Pilot Anti-Addiction Program
Originally published by: The Columbus Dispatch — September 24, 2018
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Every time there is a job opening at southern Ohio’s Taylor Lumber, the bosses interview twice as many candidates as they plan to hire. That’s because, the company’s human-resources director says, they know that about half the people chosen won’t be able to pass a drug test.
It’s a real problem, said Bart Frost, who runs human resources for the company. Another problem is chronic absenteeism caused by drug and alcohol addiction. And it’s also a struggle to find successful ways to help employees who are in recovery stay clean and sober.
Frost hopes that a new pilot program funded by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in Montgomery, Ross and Scioto counties will generate solutions, especially to the havoc wrought by the opioid epidemic.
Taylor Lumber is based in McDermott in Scioto County and also has locations in Adams and Pike counties. It employs about 380.
“It’s hard for a company to take on the onus of someone’s outside-work activity. We can’t control it,” Frost said. “But what we do know is that employees who have gone through recovery successfully and work for us, stay. There is a loyalty factor. We’d love to have more help in reaching those who really want treatment earlier on.”
The state agency on Monday will ask the state Controlling Board for the first $2.5 million of an eventual $5 million to fund the pilot program for two years. The alcohol, drug and mental health boards in the three counties will receive allotments quarterly to implement strategies to help businesses in those counties better deal with the ramifications of workers’ addictions.
Dr. Terry Welsh, the bureau’s chief medical officer, said the hope is that the ADAMH boards will lead innovative efforts that help businesses find workers fit for duty and keep them, and to help employees who are struggling.
“The connectivity to employment — having a good and meaningful job — is so important to those who are in recovery,” Welsh said.
It’s also a safety issue: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that on-the-job deaths from non-medical drug or alcohol abuse increased more than 50 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Welsh said the pilot program will provide reimbursements for businesses paying for drug testing, training for supervisors to better understand and help workers in recovery, and a network where employers can learn from one another about what works and what doesn’t.
High death rates from drugs are what led to the choice of the pilot program’s three counties, Welsh said. Montgomery’s 521 accidental drug overdoses in 2017 gave it the highest overdose rate in the state. Scioto County had the eighth-highest. Although Ross saw a dramatic drop in its overdose deaths last year, it has consistently been among the 10 hardest-hit counties in Ohio.
Penny Dehner, executive director of the Paint Valley ADAMH Board, which serves Ross and four other southern Ohio counties, said the plan includes helping employers better understand the potential triggers for someone in recovery, the signs that someone might need help, the high relapse rate for heroin users, and the value of not firing someone for one failed drug test. (The Ohio Chamber of Commerce says only about a third of businesses offer employees a second chance.)
“We can’t have ‘one strike and you’re out,’” Dehner said. “We can’t just throw people away. We need to help them.”
Another important aspect, she said, will be helping to reduce the stigma of hiring someone who is in recovery.
“We have to decide as a society in our community, ‘Are we in favor of recovery or not? Do you really think these people are worthy?’” Dehner said. “If the answer is yes, we have to prove that in the workplace.”