A Message for Tennessee Employers
During a two-hour session about providing resources and education to employers across Middle Tennessee, it was determined that these groups need to learn how to respond to the state’s opioid crisis. Officials stated that drug addiction affects the workplace through lost productivity, lost wages, job loss and safety issues.
“Drug addiction impacts Tennessee’s economy,” Bradley Jackson, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry President told WTVF, NewsChannel 5 Nashville. “Tennessee’s workforce participation rate is lower compared to surrounding states… [there are] 100,000 people across the state out of the workforce who should be in it.”
Jackson partnered with Williamson, Inc. and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce to hold the event in hopes of educating employers about how to handle many aspects of addiction, including an employee showing signs of opioid abuse.
How to Address Employee Substance Use
Research shows that assisting employees who have developed addictions can positively impact an employer’s business in the short and long term. Savings from decreased healthcare claims and reduced absenteeism combine with increased productivity and improved mental health to create a net gain for the company. Additionally, helping one’s employees is the right thing to do. However, to offer assistance, employers must first be able to properly identify a person’s substance use in the workplace.
Employers should look for the following signs of substance use in the workplace:
- Missed days of work or unexplained absences
- Frequent disappearances from the worksite
- Poor job performance, especially in those who were formerly outstanding employees
- Increase in accidents (both on and off the job)
- Unlikely or flimsy excuses
- Increased unreliability (missing appointments, meetings)
- Demonstrated inattention and poor judgment
- Confusion or disorientation
- Poor personal appearance
- Sudden weight loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Twitches, erratic movements or behavior
- Hyperactivity or sedation
- Slurred speech
- Personal problems with co-workers
- Seeming hung over or tired
- Worsened personal hygiene
- Complaints from co-workers
Once it has been determined that an employee has a drug or alcohol problem, employers should work with HR to approach the issue tactfully. Offer to help the employee to seek treatment in lieu of termination. Providing time off to address a substance use disorder may be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act or state law. Sometimes, all it takes is the reassurance that a person’s job will be waiting for them while they take the time to begin recovering.
By practicing empathy, kindness and generosity, employers can help their most valued workers to receive the professional help they require. They may also consider hiring individuals who have recently found recovery from addiction.
Employers Should Hire Individuals in Recovery
Unfortunately, for many with a history of substance use, finding a job can be difficult. NPR estimates that of the 22 million American adults in recovery, more than nine percent are unemployed – double the national average for the general population. This issue is multifaceted; addiction can result in long periods of unemployment, poor references or a criminal record. During this meeting, officials discussed how business owners can best address this employment gap.
The answer? Take a chance on people in recovery. Jason Pritchard of Ballad Health said that individuals who have overcome addiction have a driving motivation to be successful and prove that addiction will not define their lives forever. He stated that these people are more successful because they have more to prove.
Indeed, hiring individuals in recovery is a great opportunity for local employers to change a person’s life. It improves the overall health of the community, the productivity of the company, and the individual’s sense of independence and self-worth. When business owners invest in people who have devoted their lives to recovery, they reap incredible rewards.
Recommendations from the Chamber
Ultimately, the meeting was a productive discussion about Tennessee’s opioid epidemic and how employers can effectively respond to this statewide crisis.
In closing, the Tennessee Chamber recommended that businesses:
- Create a plan to manage employee absence during residential addiction treatment,
- Ask their medical insurer for coverage which includes treatment for substance use,
- Build support groups within the workplace and
- Train employees in the use of overdose reversal drug naloxone (brand name Narcan).
We hope that businesses across the state take this advice to heart and provide safe, healing environments for individuals at all stages of addiction recovery. Together, we can overcome Tennessee’s opioid epidemic.
Tennessee Addiction Treatment at Cumberland Heights
Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that requires professional intervention. At Cumberland Heights, we have helped countless people throughout the state of Tennessee to find recovery. Whether you are seeking recovery for yourself or an employee, we understand how to create a fully customized treatment plan that addresses each person’s unique needs. Our dedicated staff will walk with you every step of the way, helping you to rewrite your story – a story of hope, healing and happiness.
To learn more about Cumberland Heights, please contact us today.