By Beth Davisson
Year after year, Kentucky proves to be a great place for entrepreneurs, innovators and businesses to call home—especially those in the healthcare sector.
Last year, Kentucky reported over $29 million in healthcare investments, bringing hundreds of new jobs. However, these companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find and retain qualified, reliable employees.
Kentucky’s workforce participation rate has fallen well below the national average. In fact, to reach the national average, the state would need to add 165,000 people to its workforce—a daunting challenge.
So, what—or whom—is to blame for this discrepancy? The opioid crisis is one factor we cannot afford to ignore.
In Kentucky, where drug overdoses rank among the highest in the country, substance abuse is no longer just a public health epidemic; it’s an economic one, as well.
And it’s not just those individuals with substance use disorder who are exiting the workforce; their spouses, children, and parents, whose lives have become focused on caring for their loved ones battling addiction, are also feeling pressure to leave their jobs.
Vital Role of Businesses
Kentuckians with substance use disorder need support that extends beyond the doors of a treatment center, and the Kentucky business community has a vital role to play.
Treatment with an end goal—working toward a job and employment—can be the difference between recovery and relapse for these individuals. An important first step? Reducing the stigma around drug abuse and addiction in the workplace.
Employers should treat substance use disorder as a health problem, not a moral or ethical one. Just like diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis, addiction is a chronic and lifelong disease—and patients should have access to the comprehensive treatments they need to lead healthy, productive lives.
Change the Language
Much of the stigma associated with substance use disorder boils down to the language we use. The way employers talk about addiction does matter and can help put more people on the path toward recovery—something that benefits all of us.
The words we use to talk about substance use disorder and treatment can inadvertently reinforce the stigma surrounding the disease. When an employer takes a stand against stigma, it shows all employees—not just those struggling with addiction—that the company they work for cares about them as individuals.
More than 1,000 Kentuckians died last year due to drug overdoses. And while this problem isn’t going to be corrected overnight, business leaders—working alongside health care providers and public officials—can help lead us in the right direction.
-Beth Davisson is with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Belden finds success with “Pathways to Employment”
Belden Inc., a provider of signal transmission solutions for mission-critical applications, with a facility in Richmond, Ind., has expanded a Pathways to Employment program to two other Belden brands.
Pathways to Employment is a community-based solution blending drug-rehabilitation with the promise of employment for new and existing workers willing to lead drug-free lives.
Begun as a pilot program in Belden’s Richmond facility in February 2018, has treated 29 individuals. Of these, 13 have graduated to demanding machine-operating positions, six are currently in safety-sensitive roles, two are in the assessment phase and eight have left the program.
The program’s expansion in Syracuse and Washington will leverage the Belden Blueprint, a tool available to any entity wishing to replicate the program. The Blueprint lays out an implementation path utilizing the data and learnings from the Richmond pilot, including the importance of community partnerships, transparent communication, culture and leadership.
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