Conference helps employers understand opioid addiction in the workplace

Indiana Workforce Recovery hosted an Employer Opioid Strategy Meeting in Lafayette on Thursday.

Posted: Mar 21, 2019 5:32 PM
Updated: Mar 21, 2019 6:22 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Indiana Workforce Recovery hosted an Employer Opioid Strategy Meeting in Lafayette on Thursday. This series is the first to equip employers with the tools needed to help struggling employees.

Mike Thibideau is the Director for the Indiana Workforce Recovery. He has been traveling the state educating employers; Lafayette was his sixth stop. He said it's time to talk about addiction in the workforce.

"We talk about the public health implications and the community implications and all the dynamics of this important medical epidemic that's going across this state, but there haven't really been a lot of focused conversations about how employers have a role in building solutions to that epidemic," he said.

And he said they have a bigger role than you might think.

“Studies show that when an employer serves as the primary advocate for care they have better short term and long term outcomes measured at one and five year intervals than any other referral source," said Thibideau, who started in this role in October of 2018. He said Indiana is the only state in the country that has a full-time persons working on this issue.

Thibideau has a very personal connection to addiction.

"I started to use back in high school," he said. "I came from a very supportive and loving family but as I got older, I think a lot of people have this sense of feeling alone in a crowded room."

He said he embodies the fact that there is no stereotypical person who struggles with addiction.

“You can still be a good kid struggle with this stuff at the same time," he said. "I was an Eagle Scout, I was the youth representative on my parish board, I was the vice president of my Model United Nations team.”

And thanks to family intervention in 2015, he got on the path to recovery and has been in active recovery ever sense. Now, it's his job to help Hoosier employers know how to handle present and potential employees who struggle with addiction.

"I somewhat joke that when my family and friends were doing an intervention for me, they didn't have to worry about the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the HPPA and a number of other privacy and HR type of regulations that are in place in the work environment."

Employers are uniquely situated to combat the opioid epidemic, considering 70% of Hoosiers struggling with substance use disorder are employed.

"That means that this is both a concern for employers looking to help their people retain that talent and also looking to engage in untapped pools of talent that are potentially coming into the workforce," he said.

Jennifer Moreland is the Director of HR at Wabash Center. She attended the conference to gain knowledge.

"We need help," she said. "We don't have all the answers as employers and we need support and we need guidance and we need education."

Moreland said one of her biggest takeaways was the free Naloxone training. This is the drug that can be used to reverse an overdose.

"You have to start somewhere and just learning what opportunities and options there are to not only support employers but support your employees I think is a great place to start," she said.

One thing that is a constant uphill battle in the world of opioid misuse disorder is stigma, and the workplace is no different.

“Stigma is an important part of the issue in that employers need to be considering it as a medical issue and not a social issue when making a hiring decision," said Thibideau.

He added while someone who is using illicit drugs or is drunk on the job or during the interview process has no rights under the ADA, someone who is in recovery from substance use disorder is considered an individual with a disability the same way if someone had any other type of chronic medical condition. But stigma may be less of a problem than you may think for those in active recovery.

“For the most part, our Indiana employers, if they are hiring individuals who are in active recovery from addiction, they won’t even know they are hiring an individual in recovery," he said.

This is the first time a conference like this has been held in Lafayette, but Thibideau said he is impressed by the strides Lafayette is making.

“I frequently tout Lafayette as one of the leading communities in the state, and as a great roadmap for what other communities should do if they want to build pathways to successful recovery,” he said.

He hopes that people will take the time to come forward to their employers about their struggle with addiction in a positive way.

“If you are employed and you are struggling with addiction, come forward to your HR representative or to a person who is capable of providing you with assistance,” he said. “While not universal, I would say the vast majority of employers that we interact with, if someone comes forward before the event of a failed test or workplace accident and requests assistance, employers will help them get assistance.”

West Lafayette
Few Clouds
85° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 87°
Kokomo
Scattered Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 85°
Rensselaer
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 73°
Fowler
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 73°
Williamsport
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 82°
Crawfordsville
Scattered Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 79°
Frankfort
Broken Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 84°
Delphi
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 82°
Monticello
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 82°
Logansport
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 82°
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51079

Reported Deaths: 2756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12019693
Lake5588248
Elkhart353959
Allen2939134
St. Joseph210669
Hamilton1691101
Cass16449
Hendricks1454100
Johnson1340118
Porter82638
Tippecanoe7709
Vanderburgh7276
Clark69544
Madison67464
LaPorte61628
Howard59858
Bartholomew59745
Kosciusko5754
Marshall5449
Noble51328
LaGrange4849
Boone48244
Jackson4783
Delaware47152
Hancock46736
Shelby45425
Floyd40644
Morgan34231
Monroe34028
Grant31826
Dubois3046
Henry30018
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27410
Dearborn25823
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Vigo2528
Warrick25029
Harrison21722
Greene19432
Miami1932
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1649
Wayne1546
Daviess15017
Perry14710
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1352
Ripley1307
Franklin1278
Gibson1202
Wabash1162
Carroll1142
Fayette1067
Whitley1066
Starke1043
Newton10010
Huntington942
Jefferson862
Wells821
Randolph794
Fulton731
Knox710
Jay700
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush613
Posey570
Spencer541
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike110
Unassigned0193

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events