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Guest Post: Employer Resources for Substance Use Issues in the Workplace

Posted by Katie Hauser on September 24, 2018

Jenny Eriksen Leary serves as the associate director of media relations at Boston Medical Center.

The opioid crisis continues to take lives across Massachusetts and throughout the country. The Centers for Disease control and Prevention estimate that more than 22 million Americans struggle with a substance use disorder. That leaves very few people untouched by opioids

Beyond the devastating personal and family toll, the effect on business is steep: misuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs costs the United States more than $740 billion annually as a result of crime, lost work productivity, and healthcare associated expenses related to substance use disorder. And a recent report issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health indicates that opioid use disorder has a significant impact in the workplace throughout the state, particularly in industries where work-related injuries are more common.

For decades, Boston Medical Center has provided exceptional care to patients struggling with substance use disorders, including opioids. That led our institution to look inward and make sure that all of our employees had the resources, care and support they needed for themselves and their families. This has included the development of a Mental Health and Addiction Resource Guide that was provided to each employee, as well as the formation of several support groups aimed at helping loved ones enter recovery. We then wanted to be sure that we could share our experience with other organizations in the hopes of tapping into an untapped resource – employers – to help tackle the opioid crisis.

At a recent chamber breakfast discussion, Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction announced a free online resource that employers can use to address substance use disorders in their workplace.

The Employer Resource Library includes more than 25 downloadable documents that can be tailored and used to guide employers in addressing a range of issues related to substance use disorder in their workplace, including: surveying employees about substance use and mental health disorders; working with health insurers to obtain adequate, evidence-based coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services in health plan policies; addressing stigma and creating a non-judgmental culture surrounding substance use disorders; and linking employers to resources both locally and nationally.

Michael Botticelli, the executive director of BMC’s Grayken Center, Lisa Kelly-Croswell, BMC’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer,  and Shaun Carvalho, the safety director for Shawmut Construction & Design, led a panel that morning about the resources available within the library, and also about emphasizing safety in the workplace.

As business leaders, together we can take clear and actionable steps to make our organizations a more supportive environment for managers and employees, even with an issue as complex as addiction.