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Keeping Hoosiers hired by combating addiction within the workplace through compassion and compliance

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Posted at 6:56 AM, Sep 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-09 09:16:07-04

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INDIANAPOLIS — Addiction does not discriminate. Not only do hundreds of Hoosiers die from an overdose every year, opioid misuse has a staggering $1.5- illion direct impact on the state's annual economy, according to the IU Kelley School of Business. On top of that, nearly 60 percent of those suffering from substance use disorder identify as being employed.

A state-wide initiative to combat the addiction crisis from within the workplace by the Wellness Council of Indiana with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce is to start with the employers and teach them the tools to provide assistance to employees battling addiction before they lose their job.

Representatives from Charles C. Brandt Construction Company in Indianapolis participated in one of the Opioid Strategy Events hosted by the Wellness Council and the Chamber this year. The construction company prioritizes drug tests by testing on a weekly basis before their employees enter the field.

"Our goal is that our employees go home every day the way that they came and somebody that has a drug problem is working next to someone that doesn't at risk and we want to try to minimize those risks all that we can," says Jack Lautenschlager, Chief Operating Officer, Charles Brandt Construction. "Everything we do is dangerous here: climbing scaffold, you are down in a hole, you are working with power tools, and you don't want to hurt yourself and the person next to you. So drug use and alcohol use is a very important thing, we train our people how to spot these things on job sites, just so we don't put anybody at risk."

The construction company has been in Indy for more than a century. Lautenschlager says the company values their employees and wants to keep them hired, so they help them through recovery.

"We have had people that have failed drug tests that we have worked through with counseling and have gotten them back to where they are full employees now and there is no issues," says Lautenschlager.

Those tools to be that aid to an employee can be picked up at the Employer Opioid Strategy hosted by the Wellness Council of Indiana as part of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Representatives from Charles C Brandt Construction are just one of many Indiana employers who have attended one of the sessions so far this year.

"We want to make sure that employers have a specific safe space that they can ask questions, they can engage in dialogue, they can learn about things that are very unique to their conversations and their interventions, and their recovery supports that don't necessary pertain to outside environments," says Mike Thibideau, Director of Indiana Workforce Recovery. "You know if you are a family doing intervention for an individual that you care about, you don't have to worry about the American with Disabilities Act, but our employers do and that is something that we want to make sure is educated and part of those conversations."

At the free workshops available to any Indiana business, topics include substance use disorder, stories of recovery, legal guidance on drug-free workplace policies, how to detect use among employees, optional nalaxone training and connection to local treatment and recovery efforts.

Employers will also learn the steps to walk through those difficult conversations and make sure they how to maintain compliance while also focusing on providing assistance.

"We also know that one out of every five individuals who has self identifies as needing and desiring treatment, doesn't enter into treatment because they believe it might have a negative impact on their job but the reality is most employers are ready and able to assist." says Thibideau.

The Wellness Council says focusing on addiction recovery also helps sustain workforce development in the state.

"Right now we know that over 50-percent of employers have had a position open for over a year that they have not been able to fill," explains Thibideau. "We know that 41-percent of people entering treatment are employed, but also 41-percent of people are unemployed and actively looking for work and looking for an employer that will provide them with support to get into recovery, and that ability to connect to somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 to 19,000 people per year is something that can help an employer with the talent struggles that they are feeling right now. And beyond that, if you have to replace one employee who has been there 20, 25 years that comes at a very hefty cost for an Indiana business."

It is a value instilled in the work at Charles Brandt Construction, that keeps Hoosier families working.

"Everyone I believe, everyone makes mistakes and we all need the opportunity to get a second chance so we are big on second chances," explains Lautenschlager. "So we try to work hard with the employee if we know there is an issue."

15 more sessions will be held across the state this fall through early 2020.

For more information to attend an Employer Opioid Strategy event or have any questions contact Mike Thibideau, Director of Indiana Workforce Recovery at or 317-264-2166.

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