Opioid Strategy Meeting Aims to Empower Employers

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The director of Indiana Workforce Recovery says an event today in Indianapolis aims to help businesses assist employees dealing with substance use disorder. Mike Thibideau says the Employer Opioid Strategy Meeting creates an employer-focused conversation with a goal of providing businesses with the tools they need to help employees who need assistance.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Thibideau said the first thing employers need to to is make sure they have clear and consistent policies.

"One of the things that we've seen time and time again with our groups that are providing really great assistance to their people is that an employee knows what will happen if they come forward and that an employer also feels equipped to be transparent and public about that conversation," said Thibideau. "If you don't know how all of those regulations are going to play into a difficult conversation on a very sensitive issue, you're not necessarily going to feel equipped to be transparent with your policies."

Indiana Workforce Recovery is an initiative created through a partnership between the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Wellness Council of Indiana. 

Thibideau says not only are they trying to help employers feel prepared for what to do when an employee comes forward asking for assistance, but also be prepared if an employee has an overdose on company property. Indiana Workforce Recovery is providing drug disposal kits and training with Naloxone for businesses.

Thibideau says employers can also use the Americans with Disabilities Act as a guideline for determining what type of assistance to provide. He says someone who is in active recovery or in treatment for substance use disorder does have some protections under the ADA. 

"We often think of substance use as a social problem," said Thibideau. "But for employees and for the regulations that our employers have to adhere to, this is a medical problem. This is a disease that individuals have that hijacks the wiring of their brain. We need employers to think about it in that way, too."

Thibideau hopes employers understand and overcome the stigma of substance use disorder, which can be a big step toward overcoming the opioid crisis.

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