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Ohio Employers Seen as Key Resource in Fighting Drug Epidemic

Historically, many different sectors have been involved in addressing our society’s drug epidemic, but only recently has the business community been acknowledged as a key player in eradicating and preventing this crippling issue. The current wave of solutions to Ohio’s epidemic recognizes that employers can be part of the solution. What exactly is being done and how does it impact Ohio employers? Let’s take a look.

Executive Orders

When Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was inaugurated in January 2019, two of his first six executive orders were directly tied to combatting substance misuse in Ohio. One of these orders led to the creation of RecoveryOhio, an initiative created to address Ohio’s drug problem.  Two of the twelve goals of that initiative involve employers:

  1. Empower employers to help employees with substance use disorder.
  2. Support business owners hiring employees in recovery by offering employers incentives and reducing risks.

The group tasked with wrapping a plan around the 12 goals recently released a report with recommendations. Again, several of those recommendations recognize the value employers bring to creating and sustaining a drug-free workforce.  For instance, the report recommended including employers in groups that receive education on insurance rights as it pertains to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.  The report also recommends offering employers incentives and reducing employers’ risks when they hire employees in recovery.

Grant Funding

In addition to Governor DeWine’s emphasis on employers in the fight against substance misuse, grants are playing a role as well:

  • An $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (Trade and Economic Transition National Dislocated Worker Grant) will support employers in 16 Ohio counties who hire individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD) and provide job training for unemployed workers in recovery.
  • The Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation (BWC) is committing $5 million to fund its Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program. The program aims to reduce the risk for employers hiring or retaining individuals in recovery. Specifically, it offers financial incentives, education and support, including
    1. reimbursement for pre-employment, random and reasonable suspicion drug testing
    2. training for managers/supervisors to improve management and retention of workers in recovery (e.g, the Wellness at Work program providing businesses technical assistance in developing drug-free workplace policies in Montgomery County)
    3. a forum for “second-chance” employers to share success stories and learn from each other

This pilot program is available to employers in Montgomery, Ross, Adams, Lawrence and Scioto Counties who hire and retain workers in recovery, and the program is administered by local Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) boards. Employers in these counties can apply to participate in the BWC’s pilot program here.

Governor DeWine’s recent budget proposal included support for this program by requesting $15 million to expand the program to other areas of the state and $3 million to launch an awareness campaign what would educate employers on the program.

Opioid Toolkit State Tour

In yet another approach, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with Anthem BlueCross/BlueShield, is making plans to take their Opioid Toolkit on tour around the state, providing employers with a toolkit of resources to establish best-practice drug-free workplace programs. Working Partners® wrote and produced this toolkit and will be making these presentations. Dates and locations are expected to be announced very soon so look for an event near you!

More to Come

The momentum on this issue isn’t likely to fade, and by no means is this meant to be a thorough summary of current efforts. The emphasis on second-chance policies and supporting employees in recovery is likely to continue to expand as substance use disorder continues to be better understood and destigmatized. With the right education, tools and support resources, this can be a win-win situation for employers and employees alike.

Questions about these employer-focused initiatives? Reach out to us at 614-337-8200 and we’ll be happy to assist.

DISCLAIMER: This publication is designed to provide accurate information regarding the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that those involved in the publication are not engaged in rendering legal counsel. If legal advice is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.