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Opioid Strategy Meeting Gives Employers Tools To Address Employee Substance Abuse

Amy Adolay answers some of the legal questions employers have about handling substance abuse issues with employees

Amy Adolay answers some of the legal questions employers have about handling substance abuse issues with employees. (Samantha Horton/IPB News)

According to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, as many as 50,000 Hoosiers seek treatment each year for a substance use disorder – and most of them are employed.

About 60 employers filled a room at Lafayette’s Ivy Tech campus Thursday to learn what they can do to manage their employees’ substance issues. The Employer Opioid Strategy Meeting is designed to teach managers a how to handle the tens of thousands of Hoosiers who hold down jobs while seeking treatment for substance abuse.

“We want to make sure that employers know what’s on their side of the fence and what they need to do to be an active participant in these conversations,” says Indiana Workforce Recovery director Mike Thibideau.

He says the sessions help break down some of the existing barriers.

“Part of it is knowing how to navigate your insurance coverage, knowing what your benefits are, knowing how to navigate things like the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Family Medical Leave Act; the HIPPA is something that has a minor interaction with our employers. And they also need to know the how, whys and whens of drug testing,” says Thibideau.

Greater Lafayette Commerce President and CEO Scott Walker says the meeting helps employers address some of the major challenges they might need help with.

“In almost every workplace we work in there’s a safety issue, it can even be an office building, there’s things that can become a safety issue,” says Walker. “And so I think one of the major issues for employers is how do we address, how do we help support employees, but minimize the risk for that employee or other employees that you have or the general public if they’re in a public facing role.

Some companies have decided to stop drug testing their employees, in response to a statewide shortage of qualified workers. Others are legally bound to keep testing. Krieg Devault law firm partner Amy Adolay says employers have to evaluate if they should forgo testing and the potential hazards if they cose to do so.

“They need to consider the business decision of, do we do testing or do we not because we need to find employees. And then understanding the increased risk that could come along with employees who might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but the employer is unaware that there’s an issue because they’re not doing the testing,” says Adolay.

She says it’s important for management to understand what a company is allowed do regarding substance abuse.

“Employers are looking for information that specifically applies to them and how employers can help individuals and what their options are for helping individuals find resources and treatment,” says Adolay.

Thibideau, who has his own personal experience with substance abuse and recovery, says his organization wants employers to be able to help their workers in accessing resources including Employment Assistance Programs, or EAPs, and more.

“We’re looking to do is build a system where employers have the ability to directly refer to an assessment center and then from there in partnership with their EAP or a care provider and their insurance, be able to make sure that their employees are able to access whatever care they need in order to get back to work,” says Thibideau.

Two more trainings are scheduled on April 3 in Greenwood and April 4 in Bloomington.

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