People in recovery from substance use disorder can be among your most reliable and dedicated employees. The fact that they have been able to make the transition from substance use disorder to recovery speaks to their commitment, to their development of skills to help them sustain recovery, and to the supports they have in place. As an employer, you do not need to be alone in your effort to adopt recovery-ready workplace policies. Your state government, chamber of commerce, or local community-based organizations may already have a recovery-ready/recovery-friendly workplace initiative, or may be willing to work with you to develop one with support from other states, chambers of commerce, or community-based organizations that have already implemented such initiatives. Additionally, independently of a broader local or state-level initiative, as an employer, you can establish partnerships with local treatment providers, recovery community organizations, recovery residences, and social service providers who may be able to support new hires in recovery and employees returning to the workplace following treatment.
Two approaches to hiring and recruiting people in recovery employers may want to consider are Individual Placement and Support, an evidence-based supported competitive employment model, and second-chance protocols. Both are effective tools for building and maintaining a strong and effective, recovery-ready workplace.
Initially developed to help people with mental health conditions, the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of supported employment has begun to be utilized to support other groups, including people with physical disabilities and people who are in recovery from SUD. This UNDER IPS, an individual in early recovery is paired with a specially trained employment specialist who develops relationships with prospective employers and jointly supports the employee and employer for as long as is necessary to ensure successful employment. The employment specialist can be headquartered in a substance use disorder treatment program or in another setting. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, many states, and non-profit organizations offer IPS.
“Second chance” hiring and employment protocols can also be an effective means of building and maintaining a strong and effective workforce and are a key tool for achieving a recovery-ready workplace. The State of Indiana developed a protocol that can be found in the Indiana Substance Use Treatment Law HEA 1007 Employer Guidelines. The Sample Second Chance Hiring & Employment Protocol flowchart below was adapted from that protocol.
Individual Placement and Support (IPS) is an evidence-based approach to supported employment that helps people living with behavioral health conditions find and maintain jobs of their choosing on the competitive employment market. A form of Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE), IPS pairs prospective job applicants with a specially trained job specialist who helps the individual identify, secure, and maintain employment. This model recognizes that employment is therapeutic—that it represents a key form of recovery capital. In addition to working with individuals, the IPS specialist develops relationships with employers both to pave the way for placements and to facilitate joint problem-solving with the employee and employer when needed. IPS employment specialists support an employee and employer in their relationship for as long as is needed. So, in effect, when an employer hires an IPS participant, they get the employee and—at no charge—the specialist. The IPS Employment Center provides information and resources to support IPS implementation.
Under the Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) program, the U.S. Department Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has awarded grants to seven states to integrate state policy, program, and funding infrastructures to expand evidence-based employment services, especially IPS for people with a disability resulting from a mental health condition. More information can be found on IPSWorks.org. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs utilizes the IPS model under its Compensating Work Therapy (CWT) program.
Most often, the term “second chance” hiring refers to the employment of people with a prior criminal conviction. Sometimes, as under Indiana’s substance use treatment law (HEA 1007), second chance hiring refers to the hiring of people who are in early recovery (e.g., are in or recently completed treatment) or that have a positive pre-employment toxicology test result. The law provides protections against civil liability for negligent hiring stemming from harmful or negligent actions by the employee to business that agree to adopt recovery-ready workplace policies, including second change hiring and second chance employment, which means giving employees with positive drug tests or substance use disorder an opportunity to seek help or take other corrective action to maintain their employment. This policy can be applied both to employees who proactively seek help and to those for whom evidence of a potential problem emerged in other ways, such as following a drug test, or based on observations in the workplace. The protocol is summarized in the Sample Second Chance Hiring & Employment Protocol flowchart below. Given the high rates of criminal justice system involvement among people with substance use disorder—especially those whose disorder involves illegal use of prescription drugs or use of illicit drugs—recovery-ready workplaces apply “second chance” frameworks broadly, taking into account both any history of criminal justice system involvement and any history of substance use disorder or positive toxicology tests among prospective or current employees.
Sample Second Chance Hiring & Employment Protocol
Compensated Work Therapy Program - Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) is a Department of Veterans Affairs clinical vocational rehabilitation program that provides evidence based and evidence informed vocational rehabilitation services; partnerships with business, industry and government agencies to provide Veteran candidates for employment and Veteran labor, and employment supports to Veterans and employers.
Kentucky Transformational Employment Program (KTEP) - The Kentucky Transformational Employment Program (KTEP) provides a pathway for businesses and employers to help more Kentuckians reach long-term recovery while supporting fair chance employment.
Roadmap to Inclusive Career Pathways – This is an interactive online roadmap that provides workforce professionals with resources to help people with disabilities achieve employment and economic self-sufficiency.
State of New York Recovery-Friendly Workplace Tax Credit – This state program, the first program of its kind in the nation, helps to rid the workplace of the stigma surrounding addiction and increase employment opportunities for New Yorkers in recovery. All eligible employers can apply to receive up to $2,000 of tax credit per eligible employee hired in the current tax year, and/or the year immediately prior to that, if hours are aggregated over two years.
The Federal Bonding Program - The U.S. Department of Labor established The Federal Bonding Program in 1966 to provide Fidelity Bonds for “at-risk,” hard-to-place job seekers. The bonds protect the employer against losses caused by the fraudulent or dishonest acts of the bonded employee for the first six months of employment at no cost to the job applicant or the employer. Eligible groups include, but are not limited to, people in recovery from substance use disorder, justice-involved citizens, economically disadvantaged youth and adults who lack work histories, and individuals with a dishonorable discharge from the military.
Using Individual Placement and Support to Assist Job Seekers and Workers with Mental Health Conditions - This webinar provides an introduction to Individual Placement and Support (IPS) and explores the role of the workforce system in its implementation. The webinar focuses on the benefits of IPS for all stakeholders, including job seekers, employers, and workforce programs and partners.
Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) - The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit available to employers who invest in American job seekers who have consistently faced barriers to employment. Employers may meet their business needs and claim a tax credit if they hire an individual who is in a WOTC targeted group. There are numerous targeted groups, including people with felony convictions, but not including people in recovery.