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September 2022 Business Sense Newsletter: Supporting Workers in Recovery

September 27, 2022
Source: Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)

Observed annually in September, National Recovery Month is a time for both education and celebration. It aims to raise awareness that substance use disorders are treatable and pays tribute to the millions of people in recovery who are living healthy, productive lives in communities across America. In fact, for many, employment is a key contributor to continued recovery and wellbeing—and even small businesses can make a big difference in supporting their ongoing success.

One example of a “recovery-ready” workplace practice is providing accommodations, which people with alcoholism or in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction may be entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Common examples include flexible work arrangements and/or schedules to assist in accessing treatment or other forms of ongoing support. More information about common accommodations that can support people with alcoholism or drug addiction is available from the [Office of Disability Employment Policy] ODEP-funded Job Accommodation Network (JAN).

While accommodations are key to a healthy, inclusive work environment for people with substance use disorders or other mental health conditions, they’re not the only thing employers—including small businesses—can do to foster a supportive workplace. Companies can also offer employee assistance, something many do through formal employee assistance programs (EAPs). While today EAPs help employees facing a range of personal issues, they originated as peer-to-peer efforts to address worker alcohol use in particular.

While large companies are more likely to offer EAP services, there are strategies small businesses can use to do so, such as banding together to negotiate for better prices with EAP service providers. This might be facilitated through business membership groups such as chambers of commerce or trade associations.

In addition, businesses can provide access to behavioral/mental health treatment (and ensure such benefits comply with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act). But, even if a business does not offer such benefits, it can help employees by providing referrals to community treatment providers as well as leave or flexible scheduling to assist in accessing them.

Substance use disorders affect working families across the nation. Through supportive strategies and an inclusive workplace culture, employers of all sizes can play an important role in supporting their recovery journeys, every month of the year.

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