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Bureau Of Workers Compensation Launches Pilot Program To Address Opioid Epidemic

OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vermont.
Toby Talbot
OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vermont.

Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is launching a pilot program to help businesses hire people dealing with addiction of opioids and other drugs. The bureau has earmarked $5 million over two years for the program. 

Dr. Terry Welsh, Chief Medical Officer at the bureau, says while their focus is often on workplace injury, they want to look more broadly at the health of the workforce.

"This is about improving the safety and health of the workforce, while helping Ohio climb out of its tragic and complicated epidemic, that's touching all of us, including the business community," Welsh says.

Part of that effort is providing money to companies for ongoing drug testing, and offering management training to help supervisors work with people who have been addicted to drugs.

"We've talked with a lot of what we're calling 'second-chance employers' folks that are willing to hire and retain and successfully manage folks in recovery," he says. "What we've found is that there is a certain expertise that's required to help folks be successful in the workplace as they're going through the recovery process."

The pilot program will launch in mid-October, and Welch hopes it will help them better understand the extent of the opioid crisis's impact on business.

"Over half of the 3,200 or so businesses and 1,400 community leaders that have been surveyed are suffering the consequences of substance misuse, due to absenteeism, decreased productivity and shortage of workers," he says. "So we'll be collecting data as part of this program to measure things such as retention rates and both employer and employee satisfaction."