Many people who struggle with substance use disorder find that while getting sober is one challenge, reintegrating into society and finding a job can be another huge barrier to long-term recovery. In New Hampshire, a statewide initiative is aiming to make holding down a job a little easier for people in recovery.
The Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative, which has more than 70 participating businesses, provides employers with resources and support to help employees in recovery succeed. Hypertherm, a tool manufacturer based in Lebanon, New Hampshire, is one of the most enthusiastic adopters of the program.
“We’re here. We understand,” Jenny Levy, Hypertherm’s vice president of people, community and environment, told The Washington Post. “If you’re seeking recovery, we’re here for you.”
Employers in the initiative are more open to employees with criminal records or gaps in employment. They also may provide services like training in how to use naloxone. Overall, having an open commitment to supporting employees in recovery can help cut down on stigma. In turn, employment can help build the self-worth of people in early recovery.
“There’s not a whole lot of pride that goes into being a user,” said Kenny Sawyer, who has worked at Hypertherm for eight years, following years of drug abuse and homelessness.
David Mara, New Hampshire’s drug czar, said that holding down a job is an important accomplishment for people in recovery, not just because it is sometimes part of probation conditions.
“One of the most important things that people in recovery talk about is how it feels, with their self-worth and identity, getting employed again,” Mara said.
Of course, the program also has benefits for the companies that participate. New Hampshire has the third-highest overdose rate in the nation but also one of the lowest unemployment rates, at just 2.7%.
“Basically, everyone in New Hampshire is employed,” Mara said.
In that environment, opening employment opportunities to people who may otherwise be seen as less desirable candidates can help companies get ahead, and helping employees stay sober — and employed — keeps the businesses rolling.
Kevin Flynn, director of communications and public policy for New Hampshire’s Business and Industry Association, said that in a state where addiction is prevalent, employers have had to deal with the toll addiction takes on their employees.
“Most thoughtful business leaders want to do the right thing by their employees when it comes to addiction, and to [addiction in] their families,” he said.
Levy, of Hypertherm, said that that commitment is returned. Employees “who are supported through their recovery are incredibly loyal,” he said. “They make great workers.”
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