‘Recovery Friendly Workplaces’ are breaking the stigma of drug rehabilitation
The economic burden of drug addiction is immense. Research from the Missouri Hospital Association put the nationwide economic cost of the opioid crisis — attributable to overdose deaths and individuals with opioid use disorder — at $685 billion in 2017, or 3.5% of GDP.
Those costs can be reduced by hiring and supporting employees in recovery from drug addiction, said Ann McCauley, the director of Missouri's Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative.
“Employers will say, ‘Well, what if they have an overdose in our workplace? What if they relapse and they begin using again? What if they steal?’ And our studies and training with the companies that have received designation have shown that these things are not true,” McCauley told St. Louis on the Air. “We do understand that relapse is possible, and a lot of companies that we've designated have changed their policies to allow for someone who needs treatment to seek the treatment — and they'll hold their position while they're in treatment.”
When businesses foster a supportive work environment that encourages the success of all employees, McCauley added, employees experience more job satisfaction, motivation to succeed and improved health and wellness. In turn, she added, the businesses retain loyal, productive workers.
“The majority of the companies that we have worked with have actually promoted the employees they've hired that are in recovery, and they say that those are the very best employees they have,” she said.
Buddeez Manufacturing in Union, Missouri, is the third business in the state to receive the Recovery Friendly Workplace designation. Buddeez employee Kyle Kinsey has been in recovery from fentanyl and methamphetamine addiction for more than two years. He shared that, in addition to support from management, he’s especially grateful to have coworkers who are also focused on recovery.
“Sometimes it's stressful, and the thinking process is different [for us]. But I know that I need to stop thinking that way, so I talk to another recovering addict, and they understand how we think,” Kinsey said. “It calms me down when someone else understands what I'm feeling.”
John Gaal, director for the Missouri Works Initiative’s Worker Wellness Program, said peer-to-peer support is a critical aspect of maintaining sobriety and wellness in recovery from addiction.
“What we're seeing in reports and different articles is that peer-to-peer support is actually having better outcomes than peer-to-professional … counselors and therapists and so on,” he said. “Life is typically not fair for any of us, and only giving people one chance or two chances is probably not enough in today's world.
“I'm really glad to see that [Kyle] is getting support from supervisors as well as his fellow employees,” Gaal added.
To hear more about how recovery-friendly workplaces can uplift workers and employers alike, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to email@example.com.