State Unveils Employer Guidelines For Drug Assistance

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Mike Thibideau is the director of Indiana Workforce Recovery. Mike Thibideau is the director of Indiana Workforce Recovery.

Indiana Workforce Recovery has unveiled new guidelines for employers dealing with employees with substance abuse issues. The initiative, a partnership between the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Wellness Council of Indiana, aims to help employers meet the requirements of Indiana's substance abuse treatment law passed last year. Mike Thibideau, director of Indiana Workforce Recovery, says many businesses do not have a plan to help employees receive assistance for drug or alcohol problems. 

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Thibideau says the guidelines lay out a process that employers can follow.

"If they adhere to that process, they then receive civil liability protections and also have the ability to participate in other programs such as wage assignments in the event that they decide to pay for part or all of an employee's treatment but want to have an arrangement with that employee to pay that back over time," said Thibideau. "These types of things are really unique and they're really important because they allow people to participate in a best practice process that currently many employers are not participating in around the state and have systems by which employees feel comfortable coming forward in requesting assistance even before the event of a workplace accident or a failed test."

You can connect to more on the guidelines by clicking here.

A new statewide survey released by Indiana Workforce Recovery says 35 percent of employers do not have a basic written drug and alcohol misuse policy and only 45 percent have a plan for directing employees to assistance. Thibideau says only 6 percent of companies would consider hiring an individual who previously could not pass a drug screen but received treatment and was able to pass a drug screen later.

"Considering the workforce development challenges and the constant workforce challenges that our employers are facing in the state, they need a best practice system that they can follow in order to engage with that candidate who might have a past history of disorder or of drug use or of alcohol misuse and be able to engage with that individual and find them a career path within their organization, especially if they're qualified and already have participated in a qualified treatment program."

More than 75 percent of the survey respondents said drug or alcohol use is a problem in the community and many are seeing the effects of drug and alcohol use, such as absenteeism, decreased productivity and a shortage of workers. Thibideau says the initiative aims to help businesses realize what might be going on within their workforce and what is definitely going on in the workforce that they're potentially recruiting from.

"As we engage with businesses and we begin to share stories and we begin to engage them in direct education, we find businesses are opening up their minds. They are saying to us, 'What's next?' And so we're going to go and have more of those conversations to just begin to open some more doors and give businesses the knowledge that they need to be a force for good."

Thibideau says Indiana Workforce Recovery plans to conduct the same survey every 18 months in order to measure the progress of the effort to improve employers' response to drug and alcohol issues among the workforce. He hopes the effort leads to more Hoosier workers being referred to treatment when they fail a drug test rather than being terminated and the number of companies hiring qualified candidates who have completed treatment rise from 6 percent to 15-18 percent over the next 18 months.

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