Employers’ role in combating Connecticut’s ongoing opioid crisis

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HARTFORD --  Connecticut remains on track this year to beat its own record for the number of opioid related overdose deaths. Governor Dannel Malloy joined health care providers and people in recovery Wednesday to speak to employers about their role in helping employees suffering from an opioid addiction.

“I think it is not a moral failing it’s a physical and mental condition that needs to be treated and we need to treat it appropriately,” Gov. Malloy said. He went on to say, “I think the work place is one of those places where you can catch it and assist the individual, at least, before they become totally dysfunctional and no longer work for you.”

The forum was held at Infinity Music Hall and Bistro in Hartford. Keynoter speaker Pat Rehmer, President of Hartford Healthcare’s Behavioral Health Network stressed that a person struggling with addiction needs the same consideration from an employer as a person with other diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, which often requires a stint out of work in order to recover.

Rehmer also reminded employers that opioid addiction has now become an issue impacting people from every race and socioeconomic background.

“There are many, many people who are working fulltime jobs that are impaired. Employers often don’t know it, it’s kept very secret,” Rehmer said.  She went on to say there are some symptoms that should raise a red flags for an employer including an employee having multiple absences from work, showing late or leaving early often, or signs of excessive and consistent sleepiness.

Rehmer also said that employers are often hesitant to speak up to a staff member when they notice such symptoms for fear of being intrusive. She explained, however, “asking people and assisting them and getting them into treatment is the best thing an employer can do.”

The experts speaking on Wednesday’s panel also emphasized that it is important for employers to remember that there is no single path to opioid addiction and there is no one road to recovery either, but that with support, recovery is possible.

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