Business leaders, addiction experts and state officials gathered in Chillicothe Tuesday afternoon to kick off a new pilot program aimed at mitigating the opioid epidemic’s impact on Ross County’s workforce and business communities.
Under the Opioid Workplace Safety pilot program, the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) will provide up to $5 million over two years to help employers in Ross, Scioto and Montgomery counties hire, manage and retain workers in recovery from addiction.
“We have employers that have jobs to fill and people in recovery who want to work, but the two sides don’t often connect because of safety concerns and other reasons,” said Dr. Terrence Welsh, BWC’s chief medical officer, during a press conference at the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce. “By working with both of these populations, our hope is to help businesses become more productive and workers in recovery stay on a healthy path and become productive citizens again.”
Backed with BWC funds, the Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) boards in each county will administer the program to provide employers:
- Reimbursement for pre-employment, random and reasonable suspicion drug testing;
- Training for managers/supervisors to help them better manage a workforce that includes individuals in recovery;
- A forum/venue for “second-chance” employers to share success stories, learn from each other and encourage others to hire workers in recovery.
“With this program, we’re not just investing in our workforce, we’re investing in our community,” said Brianna Hood, program manager for the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce.
“That we’re part of this pilot project is just huge, and I’m really excited about it and the promise it holds for our community,” added Penny Dehner, executive director of the Paint Valley ADAMH board.
Ross County had 29 accidental overdose deaths in 2017, giving it the 14th highest overdose death rate in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Montgomery County had 521, giving it the state’s highest overdose death rate for the second year in a row. Scioto County had 51 for the 10thhighest rate.
National data shows the opioid crisis has lowered the labor force participation rate. In Ohio, opioid addiction, abuse and overdose deaths cost the state anywhere from $6.6 billion to $8.8 billion annually, according to a 2017 report from the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University.
More information about the Opioid Workplace Safety program can be found HERE