LIMA — Businesses are feeling the shocks of the opioid epidemic, which costs the U.S. billions of dollars each year in lost productivity and expenses related to health care, addiction treatment and the criminal justice system.
But an individual with substance-use disorder can still be a productive employee, according to Regina Bond, a client care consultant with Working Partners, who spoke to local employers Monday during the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce’s opioid forum.
“It comes down to years and years of programming,” Bond said. “… Some employers are still working under the belief that employees should be able to just disengage what’s going on at home.”
Bond recommends a few alternative strategies, from drug testing and employee referrals to written drug-free workplace policies, supervisor training and employee education forums. But the first step, she said, is understanding substance-use disorder and its associated stigma.
Tammie Colon, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties, said she hears from employers in the area who are interested in referring workers at-risk for substance misuse to treatment services.
“Most people don’t voluntarily walk through the door for treatment for a whole host of reasons, stigma being No. 1. But when they have an employer who says, ‘Listen, I’m going to refer you to a treatment provider, and I’m going to follow-up to make sure that you’re going, and I need you to sign a release so that treatment provider can tell us that you’re going to your appointments,’” said Colon, who advised that accountability helps keep people in recovery.
“It takes months if not years to learn to live without something that (the body) had once become dependent on,” Colon said. “That’s what dependency is. … When we remove the drug, we have a lot of other things we need to manage.”