Ashley Addiction Treatment and Maryland Addiction Recovery Center (MARC) have launched a pilot program that provides small and midsized businesses with education and tools to identify substance use disorders and mental health concerns among employees, and connect them with treatment.
American Design and Build, a Maryland-based remodeling company, is the first employer to participate in the program, which is called Recovery Ready Workplace. The initiative connects smaller businesses with resources similar to those offered by large employers with internal employee assistance programs and larger human resources departments, says Alex Denstman, Ashley vice president of business development.
In recent years, ADB had reached out to both Ashley and MARC several times with concerns about employee substance use, says Samuel Bierman, MARC executive director and co-founder. The conversations illustrated for leaders at MARC and Ashley the need to formalize a set of resources that helps employers build trust and constructively address such issues with staff members and connect them with recovery resources.
ADB president Joe Tunney says he had long considered his company “recovery friendly from the get-go,” but the deaths of two former employees who had been terminated after testing positive for illicit substances caused ADB leadership to reassess its policies.
“I’ve always preached that we’re one big, happy family and we want employees to consider themselves part of that family,” Tunney says. “But we also had no tolerance for drugs or alcohol. So, if you were suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, we tested. If you tested positive, you were terminated.
“As a result of that, we learned later that two employees we had terminated had ultimately succumbed to their addiction. That was a watershed moment for me. If you’re really preaching that you’re a family-oriented company, is this how you would treat a family member? Would you turn your back on them?”
Now, representatives from Ashley and MARC are delivering quarterly presentations to ADB employees, discussing topics such as understanding the warning signs of substance abuse, steps to take if someone needs help, and family’s role in active addiction and recovery, says Denstman. Employees who ask ADB management for help are guided to Ashley or MARC. The providers conduct assessments to determine if they are the appropriate treatment provider for the individual or if another program in the region can better serve their needs, Denstman says.
The resources included in Recovery Ready Workplace are available to ADB employees and their family members, and Tunney says his company has also helped guide four individuals with no ties to the company to treatment as well.
For now, the pilot is being limited to ADB, but two other local employers have expressed interest, Denstman says.
“I think there is a lot of value in this, and I think it’s going to be evident to people, because there’s really no investment needed other than an openness on the employer’s part to say, ‘Come on, you’re experts in this area. We understand the connection to retention, productivity and safety. We want to make that investment in our employees,’ ” Denstman says.