One of the challenges facing the recovering drug addict is getting a job.
No surprise there. Addicts are high risk, and business is business. Why take a chance on an addicted loser?
Simple. Helping to restore lives is a noble pursuit, and, in the long run it’s good for business and saves the taxpayers money. Under the circumstances, more businesses should seriously consider investing in the sobriety of its employees.
A good example is businessman, Phillip Cohen, owner of Cohen Architectural Woodworking in St. James, Missouri. A former addict himself, Cohen is willing to take a chance on others, but, as reported in the Associated Press, not without rules.
Cohen hires former drug addicts, felons and people who have been traumatized in life who, he feels, deserve another chance. One person, now a top employee, Cohen hired right after the man finished drug rehabilitation. Another was a person who used to sell drugs.
Cohen is tough and has no tolerance for backsliders. If a worker fails a periodic random drug or alcohol test, “we’ll fire them on the spot,” he says.
On the flip side, Cohen, it is important to note, helps keeps his employees straight by investing in counselors and people who run support groups to help workers.
Much work to be done
On a national level, there is much work to be done, and more businesses should consider, in their long term planning, business plans that include more recovery-focused initiatives.
Last year, the Surgeon General’s report said that 20 million Americans have a substance abuse problem, and, according to Joseph A. Califano, author of, “High Society” and founding chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the cost, he estimates, comes to a trillion dollars a year.
Small business owners need written policies on alcohol and substance abuse policies which help them become proactive, rather than on the defensive when confronted by drug related issues.
And the management approach can be as blunt as presenting two choices. Go into rehabilitation treatment for a month, with financial help from the company, or clean out your desk.
In an actual case, the employee chose treatment which the company paid for with the warning that the employee would be dismissed if it happened again. And it did. A few weeks after she returned to work she again became inebriated while lunching with a client.
She was fired instantly.
“You can’t back off. You can’t be a nice guy,” her boss commented.
The Workforce Investment Network
Two years ago, Joseph Hooley, Chief Executive officer of Boston’s State Street Corporation launched Boston Workforce Investment Network (Boston WINs) to strengthen the city’s workforce by teaching disadvantaged young men and women the ways of business.
Through his work with local philanthropy, particularly as an active supporter and a board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, Hooley became convinced that if he could help fix just one problem in the world, it would be urban education.
By fixing education and promoting activities which require maximum effort, more inner city youths will be persuaded to avoid alcohol and other drugs which are job killers
“I’ve visited a lot of schools over the years,” he says, “and I’ve seen some excellent programs, but the solutions to providing good urban education tend to be spotty.”
Hooley, who joined State Street in 1986, launched WINs in June 2015 and committed to investing $20 million and hiring 1,000 graduates of urban schools over the next four years.
“So far, the results are promising,” he said. “We’ve hired more than 200 graduates, and they are proving to be an excellent fit with our culture.
The unemployment rate for high school graduates in Massachusetts is 9.5%, but for those with college degrees that number drops to 4.5%. And the six year college completion rate for Boston high school student is 4.9%
The State Street Foundation has been focused on workforce development and education over the past several years and the WIN’s program, Hooley says, “is a natural extension of what we do every day.”
The WINs program has three fundamental goals:
- Help increase college enrollment rates for Boston Public high school students
- Ensure that once a Boston Public High School student gets into college they stay there
- Enhance career pathways leading to stable employment and economic mobility
Ultimately, what Hooley had in mind was a joint venture.
“We wanted to bring together a handful of nonprofits with a proven record of getting and keeping students on the path from the education system to employment, give those nonprofits funding to scale up, coordinate their efforts so that they were no longer working in isolation, and then commit to hiring a large number of those students after graduation.”
Over 70 percent of employers with 50 or more workers have been affected by prescription drug abuse according to a survey released this year by the National Safety Council. But more than 80 percent don’t have a comprehensive drug free work place policy.
As alarms over the opioid crisis sound ever louder a larger and more expensive substance problem in the U.S. is quietly growing much worse. One in eight Americans abuses alcohol, a new study finds, a fifty percent increase since the start of the century.
Pathways to Freedom
Local citizens seeking to develop community programs addressing local addiction problems would benefit from studying the Pathways to Freedom (PTF) program under development in the Arkansas prison system.
Through its Christ-centered program, PTF delivers educational, training, and support services to prisoners and ex-prisoners on a voluntary and non-compulsory basis.
The program stresses excellence, discipline, accountability and personal responsibility and focuses on six core values: integrity, responsibility, community, productivity, affirmation and restoration.
While PTF is a Christian program, those of other faiths, or no faith, are welcome to participate.
All 200 men at the Wrightsville Hawkins Unit participate in the PTF program. At the end of each quarter, a new group of approximately 40 men is transferred to the unit to begin the program, while those who have completed the in-prison phases of the program either remain at the Hawkins Unit, transfer back to their prior unit, or enter a work release or some other program such as vo-tech. Some are released.
There is good work being done in America by patriotic and gifted entrepreneurs who deserve our support.