Richmond, IN — The opioid epidemic has had an undeniable and pervasive impact on this country, and this can be seen in the experience of John Stroup of Belden Inc. In attempting to hire employees manufacturing his computer networking equipment, one out of 10 applicants failed the required drug test. With the renewed demand for factory workers, the opioid and heroin epidemic are making it a challenge for companies to tap into this workforce. An analysis from the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation found that areas with higher overdose rates also have a greater number of manufacturing jobs.

Employers have approached this issue in several different ways. Some are changing their health insurance contracts to discourage doctors from prescribing opioids. Others offer Employee Assistance Plans which generally cover a few therapy sessions. However, Stroup wanted a new model, and so developed one that could potentially be applied across many different industries that desperately need employees.

Essentially, his decision to help current and potential employees with drug rehabilitation came down to a cost-benefit analysis. Was the cost of rehabilitating people in his small town lower than that of the cost of not being able to employ them?

Stroup met with his board members and addiction specialists to create a plan. He decided that if either a current or potential employee failed a drug test but wanted to work for him, he would pay for them to be evaluated by a substance abuse treatment center. People who were at low risk for addiction could do a probationary period for two months in a position that didn’t involve heavy machinery, after which they could switch to a more dangerous position again, contingent on passing random drug tests periodically. People at high risk of addiction could spend two months in an intensive outpatient treatment program and would have a job at the end of it if they made progress. This would mean around a 5,000 dollar investment from Belden for each individual who went this route.

This opportunity is unusual for the majority of people with addiction, particularly for job applicants. In most cases, they are told to fix their problem before applying. While some rehab programs will incorporate job training, people with opioid addictions still face stigma that can make it difficult to acquire a job.

Robb Backmeyer, chief operating officer of Centerstone Indiana, which is the treatment center working with Belden on this program, believes that this program shows immense potential because of this reason. For most programs, recovery is the only light at the end of the tunnel. With the promise of a job, there is much more motivation to succeed.

This experiment began in March and has had around 20 people sign up so far. While it is too soon to tell as of yet exactly how successful the program will be, the results are promising so far. While the cost has turned out to be more than initially expected, for Belden, a company that has been present in Richmond since 1928, this program is a way for them to give back to the community that is most important to them. The hope is that the initial investment will pay off in the form of loyal employees who work hard knowing that they earned this opportunity through their hard work in the treatment program.


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