Opioid workplace safety pilot program launches in Montgomery County

Ohio BWC, ADAMHS and business leaders detail second-chance employment measures

DAYTON — Business leaders, addiction experts and state officials gathered in downtown Dayton Monday to kick off a new pilot program aimed at mitigating the opioid epidemic’s impact on Montgomery County’s workforce and business community.

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 Montgomery, Ross and Scioto 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 Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) board of Montgomery County. “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, ADAMHS 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.

“Treatment is an essential component of recovery, but just as important is what comes next,” said Helen Jones-Kelley, executive director of Montgomery County’s ADAMHS board. “Aftercare requires sustainability, including stable housing and employment. Successfully tackling this epidemic means investing in our workforce.”

Added Chris Kershner, executive vice president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce: “Our businesses need workers and those in recovery need jobs. By providing direct resources to support employers, it lessens the risk for businesses, creates a path for recovering employees and reduces recidivism.”

Montgomery County had 521 accidental overdose deaths in 2017, giving it the state’s highest overdose death rate for the second year in a row, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Ross and Scioto are routinely among the hardest-hit counties as well.

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.

BWC will hold similar events in Ross and Scioto counties Tuesday.