Career & Workplace

Opioids at work: Ohio gets $8M to help stem epidemic's impact on employees, employers


Ohio’s workforce is expected to get an $8 million infusion to combat chronic absenteeism, drug-positive tests, productivity issues and a general lack of employees that have followed the opioid epidemic into the workplace. 

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced Thursday that 16 counties, including Hamilton, Butler and Clermont, will share in the $8 million federal grant.

The money will go to an array of innovations and services, including: 

  • Employers who hire people in recovery.
  • Addiction services apprenticeships at community colleges.
  • Job training and recovery support to help the unemployed get back to work.

“Drug addiction and overdose deaths have become the most pressing public health issue and workforce challenge facing Ohio,” said Cynthia Dungey, the state’s Job and Family Services director. “This grant will help businesses rebuild their workforces and individuals rebuild their lives.”

More: Heroin in the workplace: When new hires keep failing the drug test

More: An NKY warehouse’s ‘revolutionary’ support of employees impacted by heroin addiction

Job and Family Services officials said each of these regions will get $1.8 million:

  • Southwest Ohio: Hamilton, Clermont and Butler counties
  • Southern Ohio: Ross, Pike, Brown, Adams, Scioto and Lawrence counties
  • Western region: Preble, Montgomery, Clark, Fayette and Clinton counties
  • Mahoning Valley: Trumbull and Mahoning counties

About 1,200 displaced workers are expected to be served, according to Job and Family Services authorities. The $8 million comes from a U.S. Department of Labor Trade and Economic Transition National Dislocated Worker Grant.

“What I found helpful about the grant was the resources to assist individuals who may have barriers to being employed get the supports they need to become employable,” said Karen Scherra, executive director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board. 

“In my experience, having a job, and working toward gaining or regaining a career is an important part of the recovery process, through a role back in your community as a productive citizen,” Scherra said.

Employers in southwest Ohio have been worried about the epidemic’s impact on their workplaces for some time, said Stacy Sheffield, executive director of the Workforce Investment Board for Butler, Clermont and Warren counties. 

She’s looking forward to telling employers that more employees will be treated for addiction and trained to work. She added, “For the job seekers, in my experience, jobs are one way of providing hope for our citizens.”

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