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Opioid abuse on the job: no simple solution for employers

Posted: 5:56 PM, Oct 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-03 18:05:53-04
Hiring 716 is WKBW's new initiative committed to highlighting job opportunities, challenges and success stories in Western New York. Learn more at Hiring716.com

 

"I wasn't being controlled by a boss. I was being controlled by a substance," Elliott Repka of Lancaster said.

He use to be addicted to cocaine and heroin. He;s been in and out of sobriety for the past eight years.

"It wasn't about the job I had or trying to get a better job. It was just about trying to get that money to get high," Repka said.

Now he's sober, but during that time he was using finding holding down a job was difficult.

I've had many jobs. No careers. It was definitely because of addiction," he said.

According to a 2017 National Safety Council survey, 70 percent of employers reporter their business had been affected by workers who were addicted to drugs and alcohol.

"Everything I did revolved around that substance, so I would be going to work just trying to get high."

Erin Torcello, a labor and employment lawyer, said she sees common traits among her clients' employees that may indicate a drug problem.

“Missing work, time and attendance issues, perhaps showing other symptoms like falling asleep at work," Torcello said.

According to the Peterson-Kaiser healthy System tracker, major employers spent $2.6 billion on treating opioid abuse in 2016.

Torcello said it's difficult for companies to respond to the opioid crisis because of legal issues. The right intentions can end up getting the company in trouble.

"Sometimes less information from the employers perspective is better. Even though the employer might be trying to do good because they are trying to get the employee help it doesn't always work out that way."

Repka may have bounced around from job to job.

"A lot of it was construction, insulation, and landscaping," he said.

But now he's sober and found a career he wants to pursue: being a peer mentor.

 

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