LACONIA — All of a sudden, a good employee is consistently showing up late, or is frequently calling in sick, or his personal hygiene has gone downhill.
A substance abuse problem could be to blame.
Help can be found in the form of the Workplace Recovery Assistance Program now being offered by Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region.
The nonprofit organization is one of five across the state that are sharing $1 million from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority in collaboration with Granite United Way to provide employers with the tools and training to address the effects of substance use disorder on workers and the workplace.
Daisy Pierce, executive director of Navigating Recovery, said the free program provides education and training on the science of addiction, the use of Narcan, signs and symptoms of substance abuse and how to talk to a worker who might be struggling with drug dependency.
She said such a conversation could be as direct as:
“Coming from a place of care and concern, I’m worried about you. Here are resources, if you need help.”
Those resources include a 24-7 hotline and a face-to-face counseling meeting within 24 hours for an employee or a loved one.
The employee doesn’t need to talk to the employer, but can seek confidential help directly from the program.
If the employee would like assistance in meeting with the employer to discuss the problem, the program can help.
If the employer wants to institute a corrective action plan for an employee with substance abuse, the program can assist with that as well.
“We would sit down and help them create that corrective action plan, saying that ‘In order for the employee to keep their job, these things have to be met in this timeline,’ and then we’d work with the employee to make sure those things are met,” Pierce said.
A recovery-friendly workplace is not one where employees are allowed to come to work under the influence; rather, it is one where employers give employees the time to get the resources they need to be successful in recovery.
An example might be an employee who would like to take an hour to go to a meeting, or schedule a day off to follow up with a counselor.
Pierce said the goal is for employers to treat an employee with substance use disorder the same way they would treat a worker with any other serious medical condition, and not to respond as if the situation were a moral failing.
Pierce said the program should allow Navigating Recovery to reach people it might not otherwise see.
The organization gets most of its referrals from the hospital emergency department and the county corrections facility.
“So we knew there were people out there who were working, struggling and didn’t know about us,” she said. “We thought businesses were the next best way to reach our community members.”
By having an established, confidential program in the workplace, the program can help reduce the stigma that stops many people from seeking help, she said.
One of the first local organizations to join the program is Lakes Region Community Developers.
Executive Director Carmen Lorentz said she feels this will be a benefit to her seven employees.
“The thing that attracted me is having a resource to provide to employees who may be struggling or have a family member who may be struggling,” she said.
“It’s there if they need it now or in the future. Everybody’s family has been touched by this. It’s really important to have that resource available.”
Gov. Chris Sununu backs the program.
“By fully engaging employers as allies in the battle against the opioid epidemic, we are making huge strides in turning the tide against addiction,” he said in a news release.
“Employers need workers, and those in recovery need jobs. By countering addiction stigma with accurate and important information about addiction and recovery, workplaces can create a recovery-friendly environment that will promote a culture that does not discriminate against those with substance use disorder. In New Hampshire, we’re setting an example.”
How to get help: Navigating Recovery, 603-524-5939.