Recovery Friendly Employers Conference in Jaffrey

  • Reality Check founder Mary Drew and Nicole Cullinane, the Recovery Friendly Workplace Project Director, will host the first Recovery Friendly Employers Conference at the Grand View Estate in Jaffrey on Oct. 2. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/22/2019 4:38:41 PM

Mary Drew knows it’s a big commitment for businesses to take on the responsibility of supporting employees in recovery. But the founder of Reality Check in Jaffrey feels it’s a necessary step to help those battling substance abuse and addiction.

On Oct. 2, Drew and her team at Reality Check will hold the first Recovery Friendly Employers Conference at the Grand View Estate in Jaffrey. The conference is open to companies and businesses in New Hampshire and will outline how to shift a workplace culture from zero tolerance to actively supporting people with substance use issues, and how to receive N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu’s Recovery Friendly Workplace Designation.

Drew has a lineup of guest speakers, covering a wide range of topics that will provide the first steps for companies in becoming a place where addiction and recovery isn’t viewed as a hurdle in maintaining an efficient workforce.

“Hiring people in recovery is a tough concept to sell,” Drew said.

Shannon Bresaw is the program director for the Governor’s Recovery Friendly Workplace and will offer an overview of the program. Kate Frey will talk about the economic impact of substance misuse in the state and Gina Riordan is traveling from Pennsylvania, where this type of initiative has been ongoing for the last five years, to talk about drug-free workplaces and offer brief trainings of identifying potential signs and symptoms of substance abuse, how to approach an intervention and the ways supervisors can handle issues when the arise.

Leaf Seligman will discuss meaningful engagement and social connection that will create an avenue where the support happens both on and off the clock.

“So the quality of life is better inside and outside of the walls in which people work in,” Drew said.

Mark Lefebvre will give an overview of NH Works For Recovery and how to support those in recovery to find meaningful employment. Jackie Mitchell, director of operations at WS Badger, will speak about the policies and initiatives that Badger has adopted.

Drew and Nicole Cullinane, Reality Check’s Recovery Friendly Workplace Project Director, will provide information on the services provided by the nonprofit and Tricia Zahn will give a Narcan training and distribute Narcan kits.

As of last week, more than a dozen businesses had signed up for the conference, including Jaffrey businesses Millipore, Apollo Steel and the Park Theatre.

For Millipore, which already has an employee assistance program that offers free and confidential counseling referrals and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems, the goal is to learn what resources are available.

“MilliporeSigma understands the challenges being faced across the state and the region regarding addiction. Undoubtedly, the opioid crisis in the U.S. has proven to be one of our country’s most serious health problems. As a company, we’d like to learn more about the program and what the state has to offer to help get people in recovery back to work,” said company spokesperson Karen Tiano in an email.

It’s no secret that New Hampshire has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic and it’s estimated that the economic impact of substance abuse in the state is in the billions according to New Futures.

With the Park Theatre in Jaffrey set to open next spring, board of trustees president Caroline Hollister said that Reality Check is an important resource and want to be well aware of its services when they are ready to start the hiring process.

“We all understand that nationally, the issue of addiction and use of drugs and alcohol is a serious problem,” Hollister said. “So want to have a better understanding of how to approach it, treat it, be aware of it so we have a real knowledge of the recovery process and be helpful to employees.

Employers have a certain amount of uncertainty when it comes to hiring or maintaining a workforce in recovery or potentially battling some form of addiction and Drew understands the hesitation that comes with it. But she truly believes that with the a solid foundation and continued training that it will allow businesses to support and work with employees to create a welcoming and understanding environment.

“With the proper support in place, we can reduce the likelihood of setbacks and relapses,” Drew said.

Drew recognizes that certain businesses are more harshly impacted, but said that all companies can benefit from becoming a recovery friendly employer to help all employees, not just those in recovery and battling addiction.

“It’s a huge untapped resource, but employers are struggling with how to work with them,” Drew said.

And the opportunity for success is out there. Drew has come across many currently in recovery who have started businesses and in turn, have made it a point to hire those in a similar circumstance.

Addiction and recovery is a lifelong battle, but it shouldn’t prevent people from being employed, Drew said.

“Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease and there is no cure,” she said. “But employment is primary. Everything else is pretty much contingent on employment.”

Reality Check recently received a $135,000 grant from the NH Community Development Finance Authority as part of the $1 million allocated to the recovery friendly workplace initiative in the state. The grant is for one year and the proposal was written prior to the creation of the conference, so it’s being funded by donations and sponsorships.

Drew hopes this is the first of many of its kind and is already starting to work on another potential conference in the spring. The challenge will be finding ways to fund it.

But the support for companies doesn’t end at the Grand View Estate on Oct. 2. Reality Check is an ongoing resource that is there to support employers through online trainings, interventions and recovery coaching.

Cost for the conference in $125 for businesses and $75 for nonprofits prior to Sept. 18. The price increases to $150 and $100 until registration closes Oct. 1. Drew said the conference, held from  9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 2, can hold up to 125 people and businesses and nonprofits can send two representatives.

“It’s a minimal investment when you’re talking about ways to support an entire workforce,” Drew said.

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